ISU Junior World Speed Skating Championships

- Bjugn, Norway

The ISU Junior World Speed Skating Championships took place in the covered but cold ice rink in Bjugn (NOR) this weekend, which has a new system to reduce the humidity in the air and improve the ice quality. Antoinette de Jong (NED) and in the Men’s field Patrick Roest (NED) were crowned Junior allround world champions. De Jong also took the titles in the 1000 and 3000m and took silver in the 500 and 1500. She was last year’s runner-up although not entirely fit. Since the, she has participated in some Senior World Cup competitions and in the Olympic Games in Sochi and has grown considerably as a skater.

Sixty-one young Ladies and 68 young Men competed; 30 and 29 respectively participated in the allround competition and, as titles for single distances could also be earned, even more skaters participated in some of the distances. Fifteen personal best times were set.

Ladies
Vanessa Bittner (AUT) won the 500m, which was to be expected after her World Cup win at this distance and her second place last year. Her 39.71 was half a second faster than the time of the second skater in this distance, Antoinette de Jong, who finished in 40.20. Yeon-Joo Chang (KOR) was third with 40.40, followed by Bente van den Berge (NED) with 40.48. Yelizaveta (Liza) Kazelina (RUS), still a B-junior, was fifth with 40.51 and in sixth finished a C-junior, Min-Sun Kim (KOR) in 40.61. Melissa Wijfje (NED), who won the World Cup at three distances, and entered the allround competition as a favourite was eighth in the 500m in a personal best time of 40.78 and another of the allround contenders, Sanneke de Neeling (NED), finished in 40.90 for 11th place.

In the second 500m, two days later, some allround skaters such as Kazelina did not compete. Bittner won again, this time in 39.97, in front of Van den Berge with 40.48 and De Jong with 40.53. Kim followed with 40.55. Chang did not do as well as before with 40.92. Bittner won the title with 79.680 points, De Jong was second with 80.730 and Van den Berge third with 80.960. Kim was fourth and Chang dropped to fifth in the 500m classification.

In the 1500m, also the first day, Melissa Wijfje was the champion. Her 2:00.65 was a track record. De Jong took silver in 2:01.71 and Liza Kazelina finished third in 2:03.97. De Neeling was fifth in 2:04.37, behind Cho-Weon Park (KOR) who reached 2:04.25. After this race, at the end of the first day, De Jong was leading with 80.770 points, not far ahead of Wijfje with 80.996. Kazelina was third with 81.833 and Bittner, after finishing eighth in the 1500, was fourth with 82.080 points, with De Neeling following on 82.356.

The next day in the 1000m, Bittner tried to defend her title, won last year, but she finished in fourth in 1:20.70 behind three strong Dutch Ladies. De Jong won in 1:18.82, Wijfje was second in 1:19.46 and De Neeling took bronze in 1:20.51. Kazelina finished in fifth and was still in a position to make the final podium. After this race De Jong held a strong lead on 120.180, Wijfje was the only one who could come near her, having 120.726 points. Then there was a large gap to Kazelina in third with 122.303 points, not far ahead of Bittner, who had 122.430 points, but whose strength was especially in the shorter distances. De Neeling was fifth.

Bittner decided not to start in the 3000m. Kazelina was paired with De Neeling and led from the start. For De Neeling the distance seemed one lap too long. Kazelina posted a time of 4:24.90; De Neeling 4:28.39. At that point Jade van der Molen (NED) had set the fastest time, 4:21.39. She raced only for the distance title, not for the allround. Park had set a time similar to Kazelina, 4:24.96. But in the final pair, De Jong and Wijfje showed once again that they were the strongest. De Jong finished in a track record time of 4:16.74 to take the 3000m title. Wijfje was second in 4:19.22. Van der Molen completed a Dutch podium with her bronze, but of the participants in the allround competition, Kazelina was third. This meant that De Jong had taken the title with 162.970 points. Wijfje was second, one point behind, with 163.929 points and third was Kazelina with 166.453 points in the samalog. De Neeling followed with 167.342. Like last year, Park was fifth overall.

4:21.39. She raced only for the distance title, not for the allround. Park had set a time similar to Kazelina, 4:24.96. But in the final pair, De Jong and Wijfje showed once again that they were the strongest. De Jong finished in a track record time of 4:16.74 to take the 3000m title. Wijfje was second in 4:19.22. Van der Molen completed a Dutch podium with her bronze, but of the participants in the allround competition, Kazelina was third. This meant that De Jong had taken the title with 162.970 points. Wijfje was second, one point behind, with 163.929 points and third was Kazelina with 166.453 points in the samalog. De Neeling followed with 167.342. Like last year, Park was fifth overall.

Men In the Men’s 500m, Kai Verbij (NED) was the fastest with 36.49, Takuya Goto (JPN) followed in 36.63 and then Daidai Ntab (NED) in 36.74. Piotr Michalski (POL) was fourth with 36.88. These skaters did not compete in the allround on the second day, instead they raced for the 500m title and the order of the first three did not change; again Ntab was third now with 36.83, and Verbij (36.52) beat his pairmate Goto (36.79). Armin Hager (AUT), after posting only 37.19 in the first race, now skated a national Junior record time of 36.95. Seung- Yong Yang (KOR) who moved up one spot in the ranking, overtaking Michalski. Of the allround skaters, Thijs Roozen (NED) was the best with 37.20, then Liza’s brother Mikhail Kazelin (RUS) with 37.22 and Fan Yang (CHN) with 37.26, followed by Yiming Liu (CHN) in 37.39.

Patrick Roest (NED) won the 3000m in a track record time of 3:52.05. This distance only counts for the allround; there is no title attached to this win. His countryman Willem Hoolwerf finished second in a personal best time of 3:54.06. Emery Lehmann (USA), who had his first Olympic experience in Sochi, repeated his third place of last year, this time in 3:55.31, keeping Nils van der Poel (SWE) off the distance podium. Yang was sixth in 3:57.38. Roest, who had finished 10th in 37.99 in the 500m, took the overall lead with 76.665 points, Yang was second with 76.823 points and in third place after times of 37.22 and 3:58.13 stood Kazelin. Liu, who had a personal best of 3:57.73 in the 3000 and gathered 77.011 points lay in fourth, still ahead of Hoolwerf with 77.198. Roozen dropped to sixth after 3:59.99.

Fan Yang won the 1500m title with 1:51.87, preventing another Dutch win. He was paired with Roest, who soon took the lead, but Yang hardly lost speed from lap to lap. After 28.6 he set a 28.8 and a 29.5, thus overtaking Roest. Verbij finished second in 1:52.74 and Roest was third with 1:53.01. Kazelin dropped behind with 1:54.78, finishing only 14th, while Liu posted 1:53.68. This gave Yang the lead with 114.113 points, followed by Roest with 114.335. Verbij did not participate in the full allround competition. Liu was now third with 114.904 points, and Hoolwerf, who clocked 1:53.34 in the 1500, was fourth with 114.930. Then followed Roozen and Kazelin. Lehman was now only ninth in the ranking.

The differences were not so big that the last distance was a formality, on the contrary. In the final 5000m, the Swede Van der Poel won the distance world title in 6:41.29, in a wonderful race with laps between 31.5 and 31.8 and finishing with 32.1 and 31.9. Roest, starting fast but dropping to 33.0 laps, took silver in 6:43.88 and Emery Lehman was third again in 6:43.97. Then followed Hoolwerf and Min-Seok Kim (KOR). Tenth place in a time of 6:57.65 for the leader in the rankings Yang, was not enough to win the Allround Junior World title. That went to Roest, who gathered 154.723 points. Hoolwerf’s fourth place in a personal best time of 6:46.41 moved him up to second place overall with 155.571 points, and Lehman climbed from ninth to third with 155.808 points. Yang finished fourth with 155.878, followed by Kim, Liu and Van der Poel.

On Sunday, the men skated a 1000m, only as a single distance. Vasily Melnikov (RUS) was the first below 1:14, in 1:13.89. Joel Dufter took over the lead with 1:13.54 (17.6, 26.9 and 28.9). Taro Kondo (JPN) was 0.13 behind Dufter in the opening, but then gained on him with a 26.7 lap. The last lap was 28.8 and he took the lead in 1:13.38. Armin Hager and Kai Verbij raced together. They had the fastest openers, 17.18 for Verbij and 17.2 for Hager, half a second faster than Kondo. Both had a 26.6 lap, gaining on Kondo. Verbij skated away from Hager in the final lap, which he managed in 28.6, to finish in 1:12.40, a track record for Juniors. Armin Hager took silver in 1:13.01 and Kondo won bronze.

In the qualifying round of the team pursuit, the best two teams were very close; Korea with 4:00.58 and Japan with 4:00.82. The teams in the last pair, China and the Netherlands, could not match that to reach the A-final, but they reached the B-final, China in 4:02.24, the Netherlands in 4:03.92.

In the B-final, The Dutch started slightly the faster, but in the second half of the race the Chinese team had better laps. At 2200m the Chinese were half a second behind, but then they took over the lead. China won in 4:02.59, the Dutch team finished in fourth with 4:07.46.

In the A-final, the Korean team of Kim, So and Park took the gold, defeating the Japanese team of Williamson, Ishinohe and Ogawa. The Koreans finished in 4:01.42 and the Japanese in 4:02.05.

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