Femke Kok (NED) won all four 500m World Cup races in January but there are no guarantees when it comes to the World title. Angelina Golikova (RSU), second to Kok in each of those races, finally beat her nemesis when it mattered most to win her maiden gold at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen on Friday. Kok had to settle for silver this time, as Olga Fatkulina (RSU) took bronze. In the Ladies’ Team Pursuit, the Netherlands beat Canada.
Maiden title for Golikova
In the Ladies’ 500m, Angelina Golikova (RSU) had to set the pace. The 29-year-old Muscovite started in the outer lane versus Heather McLean (CAN) and raced the perfect opener in 10.26 seconds, by far the fastest of the field.
(L-R) Femke Kok (NED), Angelina Golikova and Olga Fatkulina (both RSU) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Coming from the outer corner she got a perfect draft from McLean before heading towards the difficult final inner corner, which she handled smoothly to finish in 37.14s.
“My opener was key to win this race,” she said. “I just had to keep my technique heading into that last inner corner and it went well.
Femke Kok (NED) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Fatkulina started in the penultimate pairing and did not match Golikova, finishing in 37.45s. Taking the bronze medal, the 31-year-old was content as she reflected on a challenging fortnight in the Netherlands.
“I was suffering from a muscle injury that made my start position difficult,” she said. “It still hampers me a bit so I’m happy to get away with a medal after this period in Heerenveen.”
Olga Fatkulina (RSU) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
World Cup queen Kok skated in the final pairing and finished 0.14s short of top spot, leaving the gold to Golikova, who won her maiden world title.
Twenty-year-old Kok was happy nonetheless: “It’s actually a bit strange that I started as a favorite here today. Last year I only came ninth.
“Of course I came to win today but she [Golikova] wanted this very much too of course, and she has been a contender for years now. It’s a pity, but I’m still satisfied.”
Change of strategy pays off
The Ladies’ Team Pursuit built to a climax between Canada and the Netherlands in the final pairing, after Evgenia Lalenkova, Natalya Voronina and Elizaveta Golubeva (RSU) had beaten Norway in the penultimate pair to set the fastest time so far, two minutes, 59.35 seconds.
Both Canada and the Netherlands went out way faster than all previous teams, the Canadians taking the lead with Valérie Maltais and Ivanie Blondin assuming front duty in the first two laps and Isabelle Weidemann pulling through in the final four.
Antoinette de Jong started in front for the Dutch. She said: “My start was very bad and I thought I had messed up our train but we managed to keep it together and find the rest.”
After De Jong’s start Ireen Wüst (NED) took over but Irene Schouten (NED) stayed at the back. Having seen other nations successfully execute a strategy of pushing instead of switching turns, the Dutch amended theirs too.
De Jong pulled up front for the final four laps, with Schouten pushing from behind – and it paid off. Heading into the final lap the Orange squad was 0.10s behind, but at the finish they were 0.17s ahead, clocking 2:55.79.
De Jong said: “This was only the second time we skated in this line-up and we still have to get used to it. The pushing really helps. We were afraid to do it beforehand because we thought we might lose balance pushing, but it worked out well.”
(L-R) Teams CAN, NED, RSU, Ladies Team Pursuit at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Canada satisfied with silver
Despite finishing second after two successive wins at the World Cup last month, the Canadian Ladies were satisfied with silver. Blondin said: “It wasn’t a perfect race but I’d still say it’s positive. We come from a situation where we haven’t skated all season and those back-to-back golds… we weren’t expecting that.
“If you would have told me that we would be second within two tenths after the Dutch a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Team CAN, Ladies’ Team Pursuit at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Medal for Nikita
The happiest Ladies’ Team Pursuit medalist was probably Evgenia Lalenkova (RSU). She said: “The last two World Cup we were s**t. We couldn’t finish together. This race we returned to the positions we had last year and we managed to keep it together.
“I’m so happy with the medal because I’ve been away 45 days and I miss my six-year-old son very much. Now I can take home this and tell him, ‘Sorry, Nikita, for being away for so long but I brought home a medal for you’.”
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.
Subscribe to the ISU Newsletter to receive the latest information from the ISU and you can also subscribe to the Skating ISU YouTube Channel to receive notifications when live streams or new videos are published.
Highlights, clips, interviews, behind the scenes:
YouTube: ISU Skating
Follow the conversation with #WorldSpeed and #SpeedSkating