- Minsk, Belarus
The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 2016/17 Series concludes this weekend in Minsk (BLR) with the qualification rounds starting on February 10. This will be the sixth and final leg of the series with several Ladies and Men World Cup distance titles to be determined this weekend. During each World Cup event, there are four individual distances and a relay distance for both the Ladies and Men; one of the individual distances is raced twice each World Cup event on a rotating basis. This weekend, the 1000 m will be raced twice
Competition starts on Friday with the Ladies and Men 1000 (1), 1500, 500, 1000 (2) meters qualification heats and with the Relay Heats. On Saturday, will take place the Ladies and Men Semi Finals and Finals over 1500 meters, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals over the first 1000 meters and Semi Finals Relay. Finally, on Sunday the Ladies and Men Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals over 500 meters, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals over the second 1000 meters and Finals Relay Races will be skated.
Marianne St-Gelais (CAN) and Dajing Wu (CHN) top the 500 meter rankings
In the Ladies’ field, the current World Cup leader, Marianne St-Gelais (CAN), will not be competing this weekend, deciding to return to Canada after the Dresden (GER) World Cup to prepare for the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships. Elise Christie (GBR), who missed the last World Cup and this year’s ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championship to prepare for the World Championships, is back competing. She currently sits in second place in the distance classification having scored three wins in the distance this season. Kexin Fan (CHN) and Min Jeong Choi (KOR) are currently third and fourth in the classification but they will not compete this weekend leaving a chance to Arianna Fontana (ITA) to catch them up.
In the Men’s field, Dajing Wu (CHN) leads the World Cup classification for the distance with three wins to his credit. He is followed closely by Shaolin Sandor Liu (HUN) who has won twice this season. Abzal Azhgaliyev (KAZ) is ranked third overall and won his first career individual World Cup gold medal in this very distance earlier in the season. Wu is not competing this weekend, which opens the door for Liu to overtake him in the rankings. Azhgaliyev can finish second at best.
1000 meter: Min Jeong Choi (KOR) and Shaoang Liu (HUN) in the lead
In the Ladies’ field, Min Jeong Choi (KOR) leads the World Cup classification, followed closely by Suzanne Schulting (NED) and Elise Christie (GBR) who sits in third. Choi has won twice this season while Schulting will be looking to earn her first win of the season in this distance. The distance is raced twice this weekend, offering up an opportunity for both Schulting and Christie to take the overall distance title, as Choi is not part of the Korean entry this weekend. Christie will be looking for her third win of the season in this distance.
In the Men’s field, Shaoang Liu (HUN) leads the World Cup classification for the distance followed closely by Kyoung Won Lim (KOR) and Charle Cournoyer (CAN). Liu has managed to move into the lead of the World Cup classification with consistent results in this distance however he’ll be looking to earn his first win of the season to clinch the title. Both Lim and Cournoyer are not competing this weekend, however fourth-placed Thibaut Fauconnet (FRA) is and he won the distance at the last World Cup in Dresden (GER).
Suk Hee Shim (KOR) and Sjinkie Knegt (NED) have 1500 meter World Cup title clinched
In the Ladies’ field, Suk Hee Shim (KOR) has accumulated four wins in the distance this season to clinch the World Cup title ahead of the last event. She will not be competing this weekend, however skaters to watch in the distance include Kim Boutin (CAN) and Suzanne Schulting (NED) who are ranked second and third place in the classification for the distance. Both Schulting and Boutin have a World Cup win in the distance this season.
In the Men’s field, Sjinkie Knegt (NED) will be looking to extend his lead in the World Cup ranking for the distance having already clinched the title. He’ll be looking to add to his three wins in the distance this season. His closest rival, Jung Su Lee (KOR), will not be competing in Minsk (BLR), however Semen Elistratov (RUS) will be looking to move into second place overall. John-Henry Krueger (USA) is another skater to watch this weekend, and he currently sits in fourth place overall in the World Cup ranking for the distance.
Korean Ladies and Dutchmen looking to clinch Relay World Cup titles
In the Ladies Relay, Korea leads the classification, winning four of the five events this season. The overall title is still up for grabs however as Netherlands sits close behind in second place. Canada (third) and Italy (fourth) are mathematically out of contention for the overall title, however both teams will be aiming to improve on their overall ranking.
In the Men’s Relay, five teams can win the overall World Cup title: Netherlands, Hungary, China, Korea and Canada. Netherlands is leading the overall classification despite having no wins this season. A win this weekend will allow them to clinch the title. Hungary and China have both won twice this season and are Netherland’s closet rivals: Hungary is ranked second while Hungary is third.
About ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 2016/17 Series
The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating circuit consists of six events across North America, Asia and Europe. For the third year the format of the Series will consist of one day of qualification and two days of World Cup Sessions which includes the Finals. At each competition, the Men and Ladies Relay races will take place along with Men and Ladies individual races which will be held over 500m, 1000m and 1500m and single distances determine the winners. The series starts in Calgary (CAN) on November 4-6 and will move to Salt Lake City (USA) on November 11-13. Almost a month later the Series will continue in Asia with Shanghai (CHN) on December 9-11 and move to Gangneung (KOR) on December 16-18 which will be the official test event for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. After a long break the World Cup will pick up again in Europe, with the first stop in Dresden (GER) on February 3-5 and finally in Minsk (BLR) on February 10-12.