Antoinette de Jong (NED) was crowned European Allround Speed Skating Champion for the first time after two days of hard-fought competition in Collalbo. The two-time bronze-medal winner set herself up for her maiden title by winning the first three distances before finishing second in the final event, the 5000m. Czech Republic’s Martina Sáblíková won the 5000m to clinch second place overall, while Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) collected the bronze medal. In the ladies' sprint tournament Vanessa Herzog (AUT) took the lead on Day 1.
De Jong maintains perfect record in 1500m
Antoinette de Jong races in the 5000m on her way to the Allround gold at the ISU European Speed Skating Championships in Collalbo (ITA) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Antoinette de Jong (NED) started the second day of the tournament where she had left off on the first - winning. Her victory in the 1500m maintained a perfect streak of three distance wins in picturesque Collalbo. The 23-year-old Dutch classification leader faced second-ranked Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) in the final pairing. The Italian was 0.10 faster at the 700m split, but De Jong picked up eight tenths of a second in the penultimate lap and eventually finished 0.96 seconds ahead in 1:57.03.
Home favourite Lollobrigida set the second time, while Martina Sáblíková (CZE) came third in 1:58.07, to surpass five-time European Allround champion Ireen Wüst (NED) in the battle for third place overall. Wüst, who finished fifth in the 1500m in 1:58.81, started the deciding 5000m in fourth place.
De Jong was defending a 12.25 second gap over Lollobrigida in the 5000m and had a 21.31 advantage over long-distance specialist Sáblíková, who seemed to be her main rival in the final distance. Lollobrigida, who said she was “scared” of the 5000m beforehand, had to defend her podium spot with a 9.85 second advantage over the experienced Wüst.
Wüst bows head for Lollobrigida
Italy's Francesca Lollobrigida held off the considerable challenge of Ireen Wüst to take the Allround bronze medal 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Wüst faced her Italian rival in the penultimate pairing, while De Jong and Sáblíková would conclude the tournament in the final race. Natalya Voronina (RUS) set the mark with 7:15.87 in the first pairing, with Carlijn Achtereekte (NED) tracking a little faster in the second of four races, stopping the clock at 7:15.31.
Wüst and Lollobrigida started faster than Voronina and Achtereekte, but they paid a heavy price in the second part of their race. Wüst took an early lead, but Lollobrigida hung in to defend her overall podium spot.
"I was praying before the race, and I was even praying during the race because she started so fast," Lollobrigida said.
"I was already dead when I saw the eight laps to go sign and I had to stay with Ireen."
Lollobrigida did more than just stay with her decorated rival. She overhauled the exhausted Wüst in the final laps to win the match-up.
"My inline experience helped me a lot, because I am used to fighting in a race. I did not want to give up and when I passed her I was really focused,” Lollobrigida said. “In the final lap I knew I had a big gap and I just told myself to stay calm."
Lollobrigida finished in 7:21.67 for sixth place in the 5000m, keeping Wüst at bay in the final classification. The Dutch skater had to settle for fourth place in the final ranking, while the Italian got back to praying for second place as Sáblíková took the ice against De Jong.
Sáblíková wins distance, De Jong the title
Silver medallist Martina Sáblíková (CZE) powers to victory in the 5000m at the ISU European Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Overhauling De Jong was not feasible for Sáblíková, but the Czech racer had set her sights on passing Lollobrigida to win the Allround silver medal. Taking an early lead in the 5000m, the experienced 31-year-old skated a very balanced race gaining about a second per lap on her Italian rival as she won in 7:03.88.
De Jong tried to keep Sáblíková in sight, but could not keep up with her relentless opponent. With 7:13.73 she was almost 10 seconds slower to take silver in the distance and secure the title.
"Sáblíková had to make up time," De Jong said. "She passed me super-fast in the third corner, so I just focused on survival. I felt that I had to fight for it early on. After three distances it doesn't come easily."
The ladies' Allround medallists (from left to right): Martina Sáblíková (CZE, silver), Antoinette de Jong (NED, gold) and Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA, bronze) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Relief for De Jong
The fresh champion felt relieved to have finished in top spot after taking bronze at the two previous European Allround Championships.
"I skated my first European Championships when I was 17 years old and I finished fifth. Four years ago I was third at the European Championships and last year I was fourth at the World Allround Championships. It was pretty frustrating. Now, I finally pulled it off," she said.
De Jong joined a new team with coach Jac Orie (NED) this season, which she credits with helping her grow as a speed skater.
"I changed my approach this season. I have much more faith in myself as a speed skater and as a person. In the past I always skated in Ireen's [Wüst] shadow and that was not always easy. Thanks to my new team I have been able to step up my game. It's just that last little bit of belief.
"In the past I watched Ireen and Sáblíková in Allround Championships on television. It's a dream come true that I have been able to beat them in an Allround tournament while they are still skating themselves. Allround is the most beautiful format in speed skating."
Herzog in pole position to retain Sprint title
Austria's Vanessa Herzog enjoyed a winning start to her European Sprint title defense 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
While De Jong skated to Allround glory, Vanessa Herzog (AUT) started the defense of her European Sprint title with a track record in the 500m. With a flying 37.61 she was the only skater to cross the line in less than 38 seconds on the first day of the Ladies' Sprint tournament. Russian pair Olga Fatkulina (38.13) and Daria Kachanova (38.15) came second and third respectively.
Herzog was not as dominant in the first 1000m, but the defending champion managed to retain her top position in the overall classification, despite only coming fifth in the distance with a time of 1 minute 16.54 seconds.
Kachanova won in 1:15.79. The 21-year-old Russian prodigy was 0.03 faster than Dutch youngster Jutta Leerdam, who took silver in the distance. Letitia de Jong (NED) finished third in 1:15.88.
In the classification after two distances Kachanova is second, 0.16 seconds behind leader Herzog for Sunday's 500m. Fatkulina is 0.27 seconds back in third place, with Leerdam trailing by 0.58 in fourth.
For full entry lists and further information regarding the European Speed Skating Championships please visit: isu.org/speed-skating. Results are here and you can follow the discussion on social media by using #EuroSpeed and #SpeedSkating.