Heerenveen, Netherlands

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Laurent Dubreuil became the second Canadian after three-time winner Jeremy Wotherspoon to win the Men’s 500m at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen on Friday, and with a big smile described his success as “pretty close to the perfect race”. He beat silver medalist Pavel Kulizhnikov (RSU), and Dai Dai N'tab (NED), who took bronze. In the men’s Team Pursuit, the Netherlands won their eighth consecutive World title, despite the absence of the injured Sven Kramer.

Dubreuil follows Wotherspoon’s footsteps

Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) faced Dai Dai N’tab (NED) in the third-last pairing of the 500m – the perfect draw, the Canadian said: “I was happy to have the outer [lane], and to be paired to a direct rival. He was first in the World Cup and I came second, so that was a good motivation. 

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Dai Dai N'tab (NED) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)

“My game plan was to try and get the draft [on the back stretch] so I needed a fast start to put the pressure on Dai Dai and I was just getting off that line perfect.” 

N’tab’s start was not what he had hoped. “I made a couple of mistakes in the beginning, and it’s tough to fight against an early setback,” he said. 

Meanwhile Dubreuil executed his plan perfectly. He went on: “It was pretty close to the perfect race, definitely the perfect first 300m, and then you only have to glide the last 100 meters. This was the best race of my career.”

Crossing the line, the Canadian stopped the clock at 34.39 seconds, with N’tab trailing by 0.23s. 

Kulizhnikov was up next and put his name between the two with 34.54s to take silver. 

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Pavel Kulizhnikov (RSU) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)

Dubreuil was honored to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot and former world record holder Jeremy Wotherspoon.

“It’s a bit surprising [to be only the second Canadian to win 500m gold] because we [Canada] have had a lot of good sprinters. I’m speechless.”

The new champion did not dare to compare himself to his legendary countryman, however. “Oh no,” he said. “I would at least to have to win ten more world titles and he has won 67 World Cups [leading the all-time ranking], I have only won one so I need 66 more, and I can almost guarantee you, that’s not going to happen.”

Despite not being satisfied with his race, N’tab was happy with his first individual podium finish at a senior World Championships. He said: “Of course, I’d rather have won but I’m happy with my first podium. He [Dubreuil] skated a flawless race. Had I done that, I could’ve won here today, but third place is good for now, as a stepping stone to next season.”

Consolation title for Roest

The Netherlands winning another Team Pursuit title may seem like business as usual but it was not. Norway set a track record in the second World Cup race two weeks ago. Using a new strategy, they left the Dutch in disarray.

The Orange team faced another setback when Sven Kramer, who was instrumental in five of the seven previous Dutch wins, withdrew due to a back injury on Thursday. The Dutch chose 19-year-old Beau Snellink to join Patrick Roest and Marcel Bosker in the line-up.

They were paired with Canada in the draw. Jordan Belchos, Ted-Jan Bloemen and Connor Howe also considered themselves title contenders. Belchos said: “At the World Cups the first four were very close. Going in we thought we could be World Champions but we could also be off the podium.”

Heading into the final two laps, Canada were ahead. Belchos added: “I was in the lead. Those are the moments you dream of as an athlete. You want to be in those positions where you have a chance to win something great and it’s a challenge. So it was fun in that way, at the same time when you lose by such a small margin you always think what if…”

With Patrick Roest pulling up front, the Dutch pipped Canada to the line by 0.28 seconds, finishing in 3:41.42, but the Championships were not done yet, with track record holders Norway facing Danila Semerikov, Sergey Trofimov and Ruslan Zakharov (RSU) in the final pairing.

Belchos continued: “We saw the Dutch beat us and it goes from, ‘OK, maybe we can be World Champions’ to, ‘OK, now we’re second, and hopefully we won’t get beaten by those two pairs and drop off the podium’.”

Canada remained on the podium. Norway again used their pushing strategy without taking turns up front, but this time it did not play out as well for them and they finished fourth in 3:43.23.

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(L-R) Teams CAN, NED, RSU, Men’s Team Pursuit at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)

Semerikov, Trofimov and Zakharov took the bronze medal in 3:42.66 and Zakharov knew why Norway’s tactic had failed this time: “The ice was much slower today [due to weather conditions] than it was two weeks ago when Norway skated 3:39. They used the same tactic but today didn’t work because the ice was slower.”

For Patrick Roest, the Team Pursuit title offered some consolation but failed to mask the pain of missing out on his favorite 5000m on Thursday. He said: “It’s nice, but it doesn’t make up for yesterday. Of course it’s nice, my first title at the World Single Distance Championships, but I had other things in my mind.”

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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.

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