Thomas Krol wrote the 1,500 meters to his name at the first World Cup matches of this season. The new European sprint champion was a class apart in Heerenveen and recorded the second time ever ridden on the ice in Thialf: 1.43.24.
Krol started like a spear and drove for a long time under the track record (1.43,00) of Kjeld Nuis, although he couldn‘t keep that pace in the final round in a direct duel with Patrick Roest.
Rust, the European all-round champion, had to give in more than a second, but won the silver medal with 1.44.45. Olympic and world champion Nuis, who brought 1.44.66 to the bells, provided a complete Dutch top-3.
Not only the stage was Dutch, even the entire top-5 on the 1,500 meter consisted of Dutch skaters, something that never happened before in World Cup races. Wesly Dijs became fourth with 1.44.68 and Louis Hollaar clocked the fifth time (1.45.07). That was also a personal record for both skaters.
“ Things are going well right now,” Krol said after his race. “Still I had some misses here and there, but otherwise it was a good ride. I’m really super satisfied with this time. I had to drive my own ride against Patrick, and today I was the better one. It could also be the other way around, but we made a great battle out of it.”
Krol thought that all Dutch skaters ended up in the top 5 was bizarre. “Of course, it is a pity that the skaters from China and South Korea are not here. The Netherlands is doing super well, we show a fantastic level here.”
N‘tab wins first 500 meters, Verbij falls again
On the first 500 meters, the victory went to Dai Dai N’Tab. For the 26-year-old sprinter, it was his fourth World Cup victory at the shortest distance and his first gold World Cup medal in nearly four years.
N‘tab clocked 34.55 and was therefore close faster than the Canadian skater Laurent Dubreuil, who won the silver with 34.64. The bronze medal went to Ruslan Swashhov from Russia in 34.66.
The other Dutch sprinters did not come close to the stage. Ronald Mulder was fifth in 34.74 and was just a little faster than Hein Otterspeer (seventh in 34.77). Lennart Velema recorded a personal record with 34.89 and the eleventh time.
World record holder Pavel Koelizhnikov went down at his first appearance on the ice this season. That was also true for Kai Verbij, who, just like during the European Championships last weekend, already dropped in the first round.
“ That can happen,” Verbij said after his second crash in a week. “I haven’t fallen for years and now twice in a row. The blow did hurt my head a little bit. It really sucks, because I opened very well and then suddenly I was: unfortunately!”
According to Verbij, the fact that there were two falls on the 500 meters was not necessarily due to the quality of the ice. “It can also be just me. The ice is fast, and then it breaks quickly. Then if you lose control, you‘re gonna be quick. Of course, you just don’t want to fall, but it can happen.”
“ It was a chaotic 500 meters”, said winner N‘Tab. “The ice is dangerous for life, but you have to do it with it. I was driving quite steady myself, but my opening was not thunting. The round was good. I haven’t ridden any races for three weeks, and then I make quick mistakes. I can improve that in the coming weeks.”
Stroetinga surprises with victory on mass start
The first mass start of the World Cup season was surprisingly won by Arjan Stroetinga. In the final sprint he defeated Livio Wenger from Switzerland and the Belgian skater Bart Swings. Jorrit Bergsma was not in use in the sprint and became ninth.
“ They always say I‘m too old,” said 39-year-old Stroetinga after his fifth World Cup victory. “Sometimes you have to prove otherwise. I’m doing my best and that‘s it, but I’ve issued a good calling card for the World Cup distances. I know what I can do, and I‘ve shown it.”
Stroetinga thought the race went messy. “Jorrit would go one more time and then I could get to the finish line in good speed. I knew: if I want something, I have to go first into the corner and then continue to the finish line. I’m not worried about the criticism.”
After four national races and the European championships, the World Cup matches in Heerenveen are the first international races of the skating season. All skaters participating this weekend have undergone a negative corontest and spend five weeks in a secluded bubble.
After this weekend there will be a World Cup match and the World Cup distances in Heerenveen. The Japanese skating team did not travel to the Netherlands for the World Cup matches and the World Cup distances because of fear of contamination and because there are no qualifying places for major tournaments at stake. Also China andSouth Korea is missing this weekend.
The World Cup distances will be the last international skating competition of this season, because the international ice skating union has made a mark through the World Cup races in China and the World Cup Final in Heerenveen.