The Japanese men won two gold medals on the final day of the 2018/19 Speed Skating season in Salt Lake City, USA. Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) won the 500m and Ryosuke Tsuchiya (JPN) took his first individual World Cup gold in the Mass Start. Kjeld Nuis (NED) skated to another world record, having recorded the world’s fastest 1000m on Saturday.
Another world record for Nuis
Kjeld Nuis (NED) celebrates his 1000m and 1500m world records and gold medals © International Skating Union (ISU)
Kjeld Nuis went in the second pairing of the 1500m, facing compatriot and teammate Thomas Krol (NED). The two Dutchmen started at a ferocious pace and clocked split times more than half a second under Denis Yuskov's (RUS) 2017 world record.
"We clocked 1:05.8 after 1000m," Nuis commented. "Faster than yesterday's world record time in the 1000m. This was awesome. I've never skated this fast. This was so much better than yesterday. I was able to accelerate in every corner."
The fast beginning came at a price, however as both men struggled in the final corner.
"After such a fast 1000m you still have to skate another 500m and I was completely exhausted. In that final corner I barely managed to stay on my feet and I needed a hand on the ice to avoid a crash. If that would not have happened, this could have been a 1:39 something…"
Nuis eventually finished in 1:40.17, edging Krol by 0.36 seconds.
In the final pairing, Yuskov had a chance to recapture his record but the Russian was unable to match Nuis' and Krol's lap times, nor his own from 2017. With 1:41.49 he did manage to take bronze in the distance, which was enough to take home the 1500m World Cup. Min-Seok Kim (KOR), who finished fifth in 1:42.54, came second in the distance ranking and Nuis took third place.
Shinhama wins final 500m race
Having already broken the 34-second barrier in 33.83 on Saturday, Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) shaved another 0.04 seconds off his personal best to set 33.79 on Sunday. None of the other sprinters were able to match the 22-year-old.
Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN), who won the men's 500m © International Skating Union (ISU)
When Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS), who had set a world-record 33.61 on Saturday, took the ice in the final pairing versus countryman Ruslan Murashov , the crowd expected another explosion of power. To the surprise and aversion of the crowd the Russians did not make an effort, however, skating like tourists on a quiet afternoon. After above-11-second openers they clocked 41.28 and 39.28 respectively. "Murashov was injured," coach Dmitry Dorofeyev said. "He could not skate fast but he wanted to secure the World Cup points. Kulizhnikov was tired and had already shown what he's capable of yesterday."
Shinhama was not amused. "I don't think it's fair sportsmanship. They took away my opportunity to beat them fair and square."
The Japanese sprinter was very happy about his own breakout season, in which he won three 500m races in the World Cup and a silver medal at the World Sprint Championships. Breaking the 34-second barrier was the icing on the cake. "I did not expect that yesterday but after that race I knew I could do it again today. It's been a great year. This season Kulizhnikov was still a little bit too strong but next year I'll be back."
Despite his twelfth place on Sunday, Kulizhnikov took the season's 500m World Cup, with Shinhama in second place and Håvard Lorentzen (NOR), who was fifth in 34.28 on Sunday, in third place.
First individual World Cup win for Tsuchiya
The 2018/19 season came to a conclusion with an exciting Mass Start race in which an attacking strategy paid off. Ryosuke Tsuchiya (JPN) and Vitaly Mikhailov (BLR) escaped early in the race and managed to lap the pack.
Ryosuke Tsuchiya of Japan stands on the podium after the men's mass start © International Skating Union (ISU)
"That was my initial plan," Tsuchiya said. "I knew how the Belarusians skate and when I saw them in front I went for it."
Tsuchiya won the final sprint, with Mikhailov coming second. Simon Schouten (NED) won the sprint of the peloton to take third place.
For Tsuchiya it was his first individual World Cup win having won two gold medals in the team pursuit.
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