Essent ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships –Hamar (NOR)
Czech skater Martina Sáblíkova and Dutchman Sven Kramer were crowned the World Allround Speed Skating Champions 2009 in Hamar, Norway.
Speed skaters from fourteen nations took part in this year’s World Allround Championships in the rink that hosted the 1994 Olympics. For the first time since then, the Vikingship rink was filled to capacity with spectators, partly spurred on by the excellent results achieved earlier in the season by home favourite Håvard Bøkko.
For the ladies, one of the overall favourites had to withdraw from some days ahead of competition due to illness, namely Daniela Anschütz-Thoms (GER). A second stroke of misfortune to the German team was when this year’s European Allround champion Claudia Pechstein, who was in third place after Saturday’s two distances, also had to withdraw. In their absence, it was clear that the championship was going to be a tight fight among several contenders, including the Canadians Kristina Groves and Christine Nesbitt, perhaps all of the four Dutch ladies Paulien van Deutekom, Renate Groenewold, Ireen Wüst and Jorien Voorhuis, and the long distance specialist Martina Sáblíkóva.
In the 500m, Nesbitt won convincingly (38.87) ahead of Alla Shabanova (RUS, 39.53), who however was not strong enough in the longer distances to be reckoned with. Wüst, with 39.61, Groves and Pechstein followed suit, it also being noted that Sáblíkóva did exceptionally well with a personal best and new Czech national record time of 40.28. The 3000 m was a tighter race than usual, with eight ladies having finishing times between 4:05.61 (Groenewold, silver medal) and 4:08.94 (Maren Haugli, NOR, ninth place). They were all out-skated by Sáblíkóva, however, who delivered a magnificent 4:01.90, and found herself in the unusual position of leading in the point-sum after two distances.
The 1500m was another close race, with as many as seven skaters finishing ahead of Sáblíkóva, who slid down to fourth position after three distances. She had only had two hours of sleep from nervousness. The podium consisted of the two Canadians Groves (1:56.17) and Nesbitt (1:56.49) ahead of Wüst (1:56.78). The other Dutch ladies turned in somewhat more disappointing performances, while the two Japanese Masako Hozumi and veteran Maki Tabata did well, ending 5th and 6th. Before the final 5000m, only 5.91 seconds separated the four leading skaters Groves, Nesbitt, Wüst and Sáblíkóva. Since Nesbitt and Wüst are not among the very best on the longer distances it was clear that this was going to be a race for the World Championship title between Groves and Sáblíkóva.
In the 5000m, Stephanie Beckert (GER) and Maren Haugli (NOR) turned in good performances in the first pair, eventually giving them 3rd and 5th ranks. Hozumi in the 3rd pair skated with great determination and took the lead with 7:03.56, the only personal best on this hard distance. Sáblíkóva was perhaps disadvantaged by skating earlier than her main competitor Groves, but in a flat high quality race turned in the excellent time of 6:55.54. Then Wüst and Nesbitt skated, both candidates for the podium, but Nesbitt had a hard time on this distance and finished in 7:27.45, dropping to sixth overall. Wüst fought and did 7:17.73, only just enough to stay ahead of Hozumi, whose 5000 had brought her to fourth place overall. At that point, Wüst was certain of the bronze. Groves in the final pair needed 7:01.44 to take the title, but at about mid race it became clear that she would lose more than her allowed difference. The distance podium thus consisted of Sáblíkóva, Hozumi and Beckert, with Sáblíkóva and Groves well ahead of the others in the overall combination, followed by Wüst, Hozumi, Voorhuis and Nesbitt. This is the first time ever a Czech or Czechoslovak has won an allround world championship; Sáblíkóva has however won three world championships in single distance events.
To Wüst the bronze medal meant more than the silver of last year: “It had a golden frame to it, after my disappointing Europeans.” Sáblíkóva’s coach said: “This time next year are the Olympics, so this is where it counted for us.”
The men’s Championship was expected to be dominated by Sven Kramer (NED) and Håvard Bøkko (NOR), with various competitors at a reasonably safe distance, including Wouter Olde Heuvel (NED), Trevor Marsicano and Chad Hedrick (USA), and Enrico Fabris (ITA). This was also how things turned out. In spite of the results matching predictions, the championships were exciting to watch, with some splendid individual races and with Bøkko this time coming closer to ‘superman’ Kramer than on earlier occasions.
A notable absence this time was Shani Davis (USA), the two times allround world champion who this year has specialized in sprint and middle distances, and who won the Sprint Championship in Moscow three weeks ago. In Davis’ absence, the 500m was easily and clearly won by Denny Morrison (CAN) in 35.55, followed on the podium by Bøkko (35.99) and Konrad Niedzwiedzki (POL, 36.04). Favourite Kramer was unfortunate to have had his start unexpectedly delayed because of a long ice repair, but showed his master’s sharpness of mind and did a resepectable 36.33. Hedrick’s 36.06 was otherwise among the more impressive results.
Skating below 6:25 was clearly a tough job in Saturday’s Vikingship, and several top rated skaters failed to do so, with Marsicano’s 6:24.89 an honourable exception. With this in mind, Kramer’s race must be judged as among the most spectacular ones ever, breaking with 6:09.75 the previous track record of Gianni Romme (NED) with about ten seconds, setting a new championships record. Once again Bøkko came closest, with a superb 6:15.94, rather far ahead of Fabris, Olde Heuvel and Sverre Haugli (NOR). After two distances, Kramer was predictably ahead of Bøkko, but with a slimmer margin than on previous occasions, and with Fabris, Olde Heuvel and Marsicano looking strongest for the bronze medal. Fabris was content with his third place, said it was hard and that his only goal here was to make the overall podium.
In the 1500 m, Marsicano did an excellent 1:45.37, which even withstood the attack of world record holder Morrison and Olympic champion Fabris. Then in the final pair came an epic battle between Kramer and Bøkko, with the Norwegian winning out in the end in 1:44.83, and with Kramer winning the silver ahead of Marsicano. The point sum list after three distances had Bøkko merely 4.4 seconds (calculated to the 10,000m) behind Kramer, followed by Fabris, Morrison, Marsicano, Hedrick and Olde Heuvel at respectable distance.
The final 10,000m gave us several enjoyable pairs, though with skaters from the first five pairs not coming close to Bøkko’s rink record of 13:09.61. When five pairs had done their job, it was clear that Fabris, leading with 13:20.65, would win the overall bronze, ahead of Olde Heuvel, Marsicano (who skated a pb) and Hedrick. Morrison was too slow on the longest distance. The final pair of the final distance then gave television spectators everywhere and the 9,000 at the Vikingship an unforgettably splendid performance by the currently two best allround speedskaters of the world. Bøkko followed the world record holder Kramer with apparent ease, and had the courage to attack, ten laps before the finish, with an unheard of 28.4 lap. This was however too early, and countered by a 28.4 lap by Kramer, who eased away towards a new rink record of 13:05.21. With 13:11.01, Bøkko had managed the very rare feat of having been on all four podiums for the distances (one gold and three silvers).
Sven: “I knew that Bøkko was going to come in front of his home crowd. But with 8 laps to go, he was too early and I had no problem to counter it.” Bøkko: “I tried, but soon found out that he was stronger than me today. When he then skated away, I didn’t care. Until five laps before the end I thought about winning. It was one of my best weekends.”
Kramer gathered 147.567 points, which is a Dutch record. Also Martina Sáblíková skated a national record, 161.616 points.
Essent ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships –Hamar (NOR) - Medal Winners
3Paulien van DeutekomNED4:05.88
1Sven KramerNED6:09.74 C,T
2Masako HozumiJPN7:03.56 P
3Enrico Fabris ITA13:20.65
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