“The nerves cost me ten years of my life but I would give anything for this,” said Antoinette de Jong (NED) after winning her career first individual World title on home ice at Thialf on Thursday. Winning in three minutes, 58.47 seconds, the 25-year-old edged out six-time champion Martina Sáblíková (CZE) by 0.10 seconds in the Ladies’ 3000m, kicking off the 21st ISU World Single Distance Championships in Heerenveen. Irene Schouten (NED) took bronze in 3:59.75.
(L-R) Martina Sáblíková (CZE), Antoinette de Jong and Irene Schouten (both NED) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
De Jong was the first of the favorites to take the ice on Thursday. She said: “I decided to go flat-out from the start and then see where that would leave me. I thought, what if I come second by a small margin again? I didn’t want to be able to blame myself.”
Having won the European Allround title in January, De Jong came second in the 3000m at the two World Cup events which followed. It hadn’t bothered her too much but when a picture of her disappointment after getting 3000m silver at the World Championships in Inzell in 2019 popped up on her phone two days ago, it reminded her of a nightmare scenario.
At those Championships in Germany, Sáblíková had pipped De Jong to second by 0.5s in the final pairing and this time around the Czech endurance specialist again skated after De Jong had set the mark.
Antoinette de Jong (NED) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Sáblíková’s split times were slower than De Jong’s throughout the race but De Jong knew that her final lap had not been her fastest. She went on: “I saw Sáblíková making that final sprint and it very much reminded me of Inzell. When she crossed the line [0.10 seconds slower than De Jong] I was relieved to know that I would at least be on the podium.”
Sáblíková finished in 3:58.57. She said: “I saw how fast she [De Jong] was and I thought, OK, let’s just see what I can do. I did not think I could win it but a couple of laps into the race my coach Petr Novák told me my lap times were good.
Martina Sáblíková (CZE) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
“I’m happy with my performance. After 4:04, 4:00 and 3:59, it’s under 3:59 now, my fastest time in Thialf after four times in fourth place [at the European Allround Championships and the two World Cup events].
With Schouten and Natalya Voronina (RSU), who both won a World Cup race in January, coming up in the final paring, De Jong was still far from sure of the color of her medal.
“Schouten started super fast but then her following lap times were not so fast,” De Jong said. “When I saw her entering the final lap 1.7 seconds behind, I knew they had to be really fast to catch me. Then Jac [coach Jac Orie] told me I had won it.”
Irene Schouten (NED) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Schouten eventually finished in 3:59.75 for bronze, and Voronina had to settle for seventh place with 4:02.85. She was gutted: “I knew it was possible [to win]. We had a couple of girls who could win here, I was one of them, but today I was not the best one.
“I think I focused too much on my pair-mate, I did not skate my own race. I’ll try to turn it into a positive – I did learn from the experience.”
Where to Watch
Viewers will be able to watch the ISU Speed Skating competitions that will take place within the hub either via their national broadcaster / channel and for countries where there are no broadcasters, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel.
All the information is available in the Where to Watch which will be updated after each competition. The individual announcements and entry lists will be published under the respective events as soon as they are available. For further information regarding the ISU Speed Skating Hub please visit: https://www.isu.org/heerenveen2021.
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