In an action-packed final day of the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships Ireen Wúst kept her cool to win the Ladies’ 1500m. The 33-year-old Dutch superstar relied on her vast experience to seize her career fifth 1500m world title and her 20th world title in total, including Allround honors. Russia's Evgenia Lalenkova and Elizaveta Kazelina took silver and bronze. Canada’s Ivanie Blondin won a career-second Mass Start world title after a chaotic final sprint, with Kim Bo-Reum (KOR) and Irene Schouten (NED) collecting silver and bronze respectively.
Ireen Wüst (NED) used every ounce of her experience to win a fifth Ladies' 1500m world title 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Ladies’ 1500m: Experience key to fifth title for Wüst
After her superior display in last weekend’s 1500m World Cup race at the Calgary Olympic Oval, Miho Takagi (JPN) was the outright favorite to win a career-first title at the World Single Distances Championships.
The Japanese ace struggled to find her strides in Salt Lake City, however, and with 1:51.58 she came almost two seconds short of the world record she set on the same ice last year. Takagi ended up in fourth place.
"Mentally, I was not so strong today," she said. "It was difficult to concentrate and focus, there was too much distraction."
Nobody knows how to handle the pressure of a big championships race better than Ireen Wüst.
The defending champion had set her sights on breaking the world record in Salt Lake City. She finished a little more than a second outside Takagi's leading mark of 1:49.83, but 1:50.92 was good enough to retain her title.
"I was very good today and I did what I had to do,” Wüst said.
“If the conditions [air pressure] would have been the same as last season, a world record would have been possible. You have to be a bit lucky for that, but [not skating a world record] doesn't take anything away from this gold medal."
Last week in Calgary Wüst finished 1.65 seconds behind the impressive Takagi, but the Dutch skater kept her faith.
"I felt that I was improving this week,” she said. “The pressure and the confidence grew day-by-day and that's how I like it.”
Experience was key, agreed Wüst's coach Peter Kolder (NED).
"It's such an incredible effort to pull it off again,” he said. “She knows exactly what to do to prepare best for a race like this. As a coach I sometimes wonder whether I shouldn't do more, but sometimes you try to do too much. On race day, Ireen does it all by herself."
Adding a fifth 1500m world title to nine titles in other events at the World Single Distances Championships and six World Allround titles, Wüst collected her 20th world crown in total.
Ladies' 1500m medalists (from left): Lalenkova (RUS, silver), Wüst (NED, gold), Kazelina (RUS, bronze) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
At the other end of the scale, Russia’s Evgenia Lalenkova took her first individual world championships medal. Chasing pair-mate Wüst the 29-year-old clocked a personal best 1:51.13.
Lalenkova gave birth to a son, Nikita, after the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games before deciding on a return to the ice.
"This proves it was the right decision," said the Russian, who also won a Team Pursuit bronze medal at last year's world championships.
"That was actually more emotional because it was the first ever medal I won but an individual medal is more important to me."
Elizaveta Kazelina (RUS) won her fourth World Single Distances Championships medal, with bronze in a personal best 1:51.41.
A smile of success from Canada's Ivanie Blondin following the Ladies' Mass Start 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Ladies’ Mass Start: Blondin emerges from the chaos to take top prize
Race strategy played a big part in the the Ladies' Mass Start. After a few initial attempts to break away by Germany’s Michelle Uhrig and Polish pair Karolina Bosiek and Karolina Gasecka the bunch stayed together at relatively slow pace until the final two laps.
After the dust had settled, Blondin came around the final corner in front and fought hard to keep Kim and Schouten at bay.
"Honestly it's a little bit of a blur," Blondin said after the chaotic final lap.
"I positioned myself in the right place, fought my way to the front and held it."
The Canadian’s gold medal made amends for a frustrating time in three previous individual starts at the 2020 Salt Lake City worlds.
"I set a PB [personal best] in the 3000m, but I know I can do better than that,” she said. “In the 5000m I did an incredible PB, but it just wasn't good enough for the podium. And today I was pretty mad about the 1500m. I thought I would do better again.
"It's been a strange week. Physically I'm there, but mentally it's been difficult."
Schouten was disappointed after finishing third.
"I came here to win,” she said. “I know that I'm the fastest in the field and that's what I wanted to show.
"Because the race had been slow I wanted to start my jump at 500m from the line, but then Blondin swerved outside and I was held back a bit.
"In that final lap I was pushed and pulled all over the place. It's not Blondin, but many others. One of the Japanese ladies' [Sato] got disqualified, but that doesn't help me a bit.
"On the one hand I shouldn't complain because it comes with the sport, but on the other I think it's too much pushing and pulling."
With Blondin's second world title, she equaled Schouten's total since the event was added to the worlds in 2015. Kim Bo-Reum, who took silver this time around, won the 2017 edition.
Netherlands Ladies finished with three gold medals from the championships, ahead of Russia on two. Canada, Czech Republic and Russia took one each.
Ladies' Mass Start medalists (from left): Kim (KOR, silver), Blondin (CAN, gold), Schouten (NED, bronze) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Highlights, clips, interviews, behind the scenes:
YouTube: ISU Skating
Follow the conversation with #SpeedSkating.
For further information on ISU Speed Skating visit https://www.isu.org/speed-skating