Wednesday night the Gangneung Oval features the ladies’ and men’s Team Pursuit semifinals and finals in Speed Skating. It doesn’t only come down to speed and stamina anymore, communication and cooperation are of the utmost importance. In the ladies’ event Japan and the Netherlands are the ones to watch and in the men’s event New Zealand are aiming for a historical first ever Speed Skating medal and the second medal in total for their nation at the Olympic Winter Games.
Havard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) wiped off the dust of Norway’s speed skating history books on Monday. The 25-year-old sprinter claimed Norway's first Olympic 500m title since Finn Helgesen at the 1948 Olympics in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland. Korea’s Min Kyu Cha and China’s Tingyu Gao surprisingly seized the silver and bronze medals.
The Netherlands started their title defense in the Ladies’ Team Pursuit with a new Olympic record of 2:55.61. Japan finished a close second with 2:56.09 in the quarterfinals. Canada came third in 2:59.02 and the United States qualified fourth for the semifinals in 2:59.75.
The men’s 500m is arguably the most competitive event in Speed Skating at the moment. 17 different skaters took at least one medal in this season’s ISU World Cup. Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) and Alex Boisvert-Lacroix (CAN) are the only ones who claimed more than one ISU World Cup gold this season.
Republic of Korea made a mark in the Men’s Team Pursuit quarterfinals on Sunday night. Seung-Hoon Lee, Jaewon Chun and Min Seok Kim finished their eight laps versus Italy in 3:39.29 to advance to the finals with the fastest time. The Netherlands came second in 3:40.03. Norway (3:40.09) and New-Zealand (3:41.18) grabbed the remaining semifinal tickets.
Nao Kodaira nailed it. After a winning streak of 15 races in the ISU World Cup over two seasons the Japanese rocket exploded for gold and an Olympic record in 36.94. Home favorite and title defender Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) had to settle for silver in 37.33 and Karolina Erbanova (CZE) ran away with the bronze in 37.34.
It will be Korea versus Japan, Sang-Hwa Lee versus Nao Kodaira, in the ladies’ 500m on Sunday. Lee is the two-fold Olympic champion defending her title on home soil, but Kodaira has reigned the shortest speed skating distance with an iron fist over the past two seasons, winning in each of her last 15 World Cup appearances.
Hong Zhang (CHN) handed China the first speed skating gold, when she won the ladies’ 1000m in Sochi four years ago. This time around, she’s not high up the list of favorites. Her preparations for PyeongChang 2018 have been plagued by a long struggle to overcome the pain she feels in her knees.
Esmee Visser (NED) came, saw and conquered in the ladies’ 5000m at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Friday. The 22-year-old held two-fold Olympic champion Martina Sáblíková (CZE) off a third consecutive title in a track record time of 6:50.23. The 30-year-old Czech took silver and Natalia Voronina (OAR) grabbed bronze.
Martina Sáblíková (CZE) is going for a third consecutive Olympic 5000m title at the Gangneung Olympic Oval on Friday February 16. The Czech endurance specialist could become the second lady to win this event three times in a row after Claudia Pechstein (GER), who took gold in 1994-2002.
Ted-Jan Bloemen grabbed the first non-Dutch speed skating gold in a new Olympic 10000m record of 12:39.77 at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games. The Canadian world record holder caused a big upset in the Dutch camp, when he kept Sven Kramer (NED) off the only title he missed, and still misses, in his trophy cabinet.
The 10,000m gold is the last major omission in Sven Kramer’s (NED) trophy cabinet. It’s the event he should have won twice, but never did. The 31-year-old Dutchmen is on a mission at PyeongChang 2018, but it is not going to be a walk in the park on Thursday night.
Jorien ter Mors (NED) maintained her perfect Olympic Speed Skating record, seizing gold in the ladies’ 1000m on Wednesday. Favorite Nao Kodaira (JPN), who won three World Cup 1000m races this season, had to settle for silver and her compatriot Miho Takagi added a bronze to Monday’s 1500m silver.
After having won all 1500m World Cup races in which she started, Miho Takagi (JPN) was the red-hot favorite to win the distance at PyeongChang 2018, but record champion Ireen Wüst (NED) edged her out by 0.2 seconds on Monday. The 23-year-old Japanese was left with silver, but her Olympic campaign is far from over yet.
Three wins in four World Cup races and a world record in Salt Lake City. Nao Kodaira (JPN) is the clear-cut favorite for the Ladies’ 1000m at the Gangneung Olympic Oval on Wednesday. Competition will be tough, however and anything can happen.