The Essent ISU World Cup Speed Skating series opened this season in the Dutch town of Heerenveen. The Dutch men lowered the track record in the Team Pursuit to 3:39.76. A total of fifteen personal best times were skated, including two national records for Belgium: Bart Swings (1:47.46) in the Men's 1500m and Jelena Peeters (4:16.95) in the Ladies' 3000m, a new national record.
The day started with the Ladies' 3000m. In her first international Long Track debut, Dutch Short Track Champion Jorien ter Mors finished third, winning her first medal and a personal best time of 4:06.90. Stephanie Beckert (GER) won in 4:04.40, and Martina Sábliková (CZE) who competed in the World Cycling Championships this summer finished second with a time of 4:06.71. Although Olga Graf (RUS) got a personal best time of 4:09.01 she finished fifth.
In the Ladies' 500m two skaters finished under the 38 second benchmark, Olympic Champion Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) won in 37.85 and Heather Richardson (USA) got silver with a time of 37.95. The bronze went to Nao Kodaira (JPN) with her time of 38.26. Jenny Wolf (GER) and World Record holder Jing Yu (CHN) were paired and finished in fifth and sixth position respectively.
In the Men's 5000m the pace was not set until 36-year old Bob de Jong (NED) took to the ice. He was paired with 16-year-old Emery Lehman (USA), who finished in a Track Record for B-juniors (6:38.94). De Jong finished in 6:18.31, a time that Dutch skaters Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma used as their target. Bergsma and Blokhuijsen battled it out where Bergsma took the lead with a 1.5 seconds gap at the most, but Blokhuijsen reeled him in again and thought he had the race in the bag. However a strong finishing Bergsma stayed ahead of him with a time of 6:16.78 against 6:16.81. In the final pair, Sven Kramer (NED) versus Håvard Bøkko (NOR), and with four or five laps to go Kramer was closing in on the two second gap with a final acceleration in the last lap, Kramer secured his win with 6:16.09.
Artur Was (POL) was the first to finish under 35 seconds in the Men's 500m earning his first World Cup podium with a silver medal and a time of 34.98. The Finn Pekka Koskela kicked off his season strongly with a gold medal (34.96). Both Jan Smeekens (NED) and Tae-Bum Mo (KOR) clocked 35.07, but with 35.072 Smeekens took bronze, Mo had 35.076.
In the second Ladies' 500m Sang-Hwa Lee was the fastest again, this time in 37.92. Heather Richardson took silver for a second time in 38.13 and Jenny Wolf was third in 38.14. After two races, Sang-Hwa Lee leads the 500m ranking with 200 points, Richardson follows with 160.
In the Men's 1000m times were comparatively slower. Denny Morrison (CAN), winner of the 1500m at the end of last season, started with a win with 1:09.4. Pekka Koskela, the 500m winner, finished in 1:09.51 winning silver, whilst Dutchman Kjeld Nuis was the best of the Dutch team with 1:09.53. Shani Davis (USA) did not race due to an injury.
Christine Nesbitt (CAN) the queen of the 1500m in the past years was paired with Marrit Leenstra (NED). They passed the 300m and 700m side by side however in the next lap Nesbitt gained about a meter on Leenstra, who was not able to keep up in spite of a good last lap. Nesbitt took the gold with 1:56.35 and Leenstra silver in 1:56.42 which was exactly a second faster than the 1:57.42 personal best of the bronze winner, 20 year old Lotte van Beek (NED).
A total of 13 national teams competed in the Men's Team Pursuit. Although Koen Verweij's skate kicked the shin of Sven Kramer, the team (also comprised of Jan Blokhuijzen) got a new track record and won in 3:39.76. Kramer only had a small cut. The Russian team took silver in 3:42.90 whilst the Korean team reached third place with a strong finish (3:43.57). Kramer
Although Short Track skater Jorien ter Mors led most of the race in the Ladies' Mass Start, her teammate Mariska Huisman overtook the pack in the final sprint finishing ahead of ter Mors. Thanks to her points gathered in the intermediate sprints, Claudia Pechstein (GER) took third place.
The final day started with the second Men's 500m. Joji Kato (JPN) was the only skater below 35 seconds and won in 34.98. Jan Smeekens finished in close second with 35.05 while the contenders for the bronze were only five thousand's of a second behind. Tae-Bum Mo (KOR) (35.152) and Gilmore Junio (CAN) skated 35.157, finishing fourth. After two 500m races, Joji Kato leads with 150 points and one win, followed by Jan Smeekens with 150 points. Artur Was and Tae-Bum Mo have 130 points each. Pekka Koskela pulled a groin at the start of his race and had to withdraw.
In the Ladies' 1000m Heather Richardson took the win in 1:15:27 while Hong Zhang got silver with 1:15.41. In third place Lotte van Beek improved on her Personal Best with 1:15.83, with a good last lap of 29.4 beating teammate Marrit Leenstra (1:15.89). Christine Nesbitt finished in tenth place.
In the Men's 1500m Norwegian Sverre Lunde Pedersen skated strongly with a time of 1:46.54. His time remained the fastest until another 20-year-old Maurice Vriend (NED), who made his World Cup debut (1:46.13), shaved one and a half seconds of his Personal Best. With a strong final lap, Håvard Bøkko (NOR) came second with 1:46.40, snatching the silver away from his countryman.
In the Team Pursuit, the German ladies comprised of Stephanie Beckert, Isabelle Ost, Claudia Pechstein finished fastest in 3:01.14. Although the Dutch ladies were faster for most of the race, but with a slow final lap they finished in 3:02.32. The Canadians finished in third with 3:02.33.
Although Sebastian Druszkiewicz (POL) attacked right from the start at the Men's Mass Start, it was Dutchmen Christijn Groeneveld and Arjan Stroetinga who took gold and silver. Alexis Contin (FRA), Bart Swings (BEL) and Dmitrij Babenko (KAZ) overtook the pack finishing in third, fourth and fifth respectively.
The Essent ISU World Cup Speed Skating series continues in Kolomna (RUS) for the Allround skaters while the Sprinters will meet in December in Asia.