Xandra Velzeboer (NED) pulled off a massive upset to win the World title in the Women’s 1000m on the final day of action at the KB Financial Group ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2023, going on to add two more golds in the relays to bring her World title tally for the weekend to four.
Velzeboer stunned two-time Olympic champion and compatriot Suzanne Schulting (NED) in the 1000m to take gold in spectacular fashion.
Choi Min Jeong (KOR) ultimately took silver ahead of bronze medallist Courtney Sarault (CAN), as Schulting finished fifth after receiving a penalty.
The spectators at a packed Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul (KOR) were served a dream matchup, with Schulting and Choi also adding another chapter to their thrilling rivalry.
But it was Velzeboer who stole the show and crowned herself the queen of this World Championships - she would go on to bag four gold medals - showing off her brilliant technique and scorching speed.
Xandra Velzeboer (NED) stunned Suzanne Schulting (NED) and local favourite Choi Min Jeong (KOR) to take 1000m gold @ISU
Velzeboer worked her way into second place before producing an excellent inside pass with three laps remaining to overtake then leader Sarault and power through to secure the top spot.
“I still can’t believe it. During the quarter-finals I felt quite stressed. But after that I decided to switch mentally. I just wanted to race, because that’s what I like,” Velzeboer said.
“I felt quite calm for the finals, was alert and able to speed up more and more in the last few rounds. That helped me. It’s just unbelievable.”
Choi was expected to spearhead the Korean contingent on home ice, but failed to secure a single world title this weekend.
“I wanted to make up for my mistake in the 500m yesterday, but things didn’t go to plan yet again. But I don’t have any regrets as I gave it my all,” Choi said.
Choi (KOR), left, picked up her second silver medal of the weekend, with Canada's Courtney Sarault, right, capturing the bronze @ISU
“Korea has an incredible reputation in this sport. You can tell the people are also very passionate about Short Track with the support they have been showing us. But it was just not meant to be this time.
“With all the skaters having a high standard of skills right now, I’ve to try and get up to speed with the new trends. Everyone wants to be up front. I’m learning and doing my best to get back stronger.”
Velzeboer leads the way once more in Women’s relay
Velzeboer also anchored the Dutch team to secure the world title in the 3000m Relay with the Republic of Korea winning silver and Canada taking bronze.
The Netherlands, Olympic champions in this event, executed their race strategy to perfection. They settled into second place for the first half of the 27-lap race, content to draft behind the Korean leaders and save their legs for the finale.
With 11 laps to go, the speedy Dutch burst to the front and soon picked up the pace, with the home favorites the only team able to stay close. It was ultimately Velzeboer who cruised to gold after taking over for the last two laps.
The Dutch 3000m Relay team executed their race strategy to perfection to cruise to gold ahead of Korea and Canada @ISU
“This was our main goal. It’s super special that we made it happen,” Velzeboer said.
Asked about the Dutch dominance in the Women’s events this World Championships - the Netherlands won gold in all distances – her teammate Schulting said:
“I think we can only be proud. We dominated this competition.
“It’s very special to see how Xandra [Velzeboer] dealt with all the pressure here as well. To speak for myself, I’m just done and feeling empty.”
Orange is the new gold for Mixed Relay quartet
There was another first for the Dutch powerhouse in Seoul, as the ‘Orange team’ won the inaugural World title in the Mixed Team Relay, beating Olympic champion China with Italy rounding off the podium.
The Chinese outlet has been the dominant force in the event but could not live up to the expectations against an incredibly strong Dutch team.
Schulting and Velzeboer teamed up with Teun Boer and Jens van 't Wout to form the Dutch quartet. Van ‘t Wout turned up the pace with eight laps remaining and never looked back, coasting to an impressive victory.
Called into the Dutch team 15 minutes before the final, Teun Boer, left, was soon celebrating gold with Van ‘t Wout, Velzeboer and Schulting @ISU
Shortly after the race, Boer admitted he had gone through a whirlwind of emotions as he had only been told 15 minutes before the start of the Final A that he was going to take part.
“For me it’s all new and I’m not used to such kind of nerves. It was really intense,” Boer said.
“But when I was skating up front, I finally thought, ‘this is where we want to be’. I was then able to accelerate and fire away Jens [Van ‘t Wout] with my push.
“You just hope for the best, but I know he has that pace. He’s been one of the fastest skaters out here.
“It’s has been a very special debut at the World Championships. Especially when I got introduced to this race, I felt like it was going to be serious business.
“This season has been a roller-coaster ride for me and I’m just really happy to wrap it all up with a World title.”
Where to watch
Viewers can watch the KB Financial Group ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships via their national broadcaster/channel.
For countries where there are no broadcasters and for the qualification and repechage races, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel. You will find the full list on the Where to Watch webpage here.