With a display of unmatched power and composure Pavel Kulizhnikov, seized his second medal of the Calgary World Cup weekend, winning the men's 1000m on Saturday to go with his silver in the 500m from Friday. The Russian sprinter was more than half a second faster than his Dutch rivals Thomas Krol and Kjeld Nuis. After three Russian victories in the Men's tournament, Patrick Roest concluded the fifth leg of the World Cup with the only gold for the Netherlands, edging out home favorite Ted-Jan Bloemen by just 0.02secs in the 5000m.
Pavel Kulizhnikov has laid down a marker ahead of the world championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Men's 1000m: Kulizhnikov eases to track record
Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) started in the first pairing of the 1000m and set an unscaleable bar for the rest of the field with 1:06.49, shaving 0.02 off Kjeld Nuis' 2017 track record.
“This race was not full throttle,” the Russian said afterwards. "I think even a 1:06.3 or a 1:06.2 would have been possible."
Despite not going full gas, Kulizhnikov was 0.52 seconds faster than Krol and Nuis, who ended up in second and third place just 0.002 apart.
Beating his Dutch rivals by such a big margin makes Kulizhnikov the red-hot favorite for next week's World Single Distance Championships in Salt Lake City.
“I'm used to being a favorite,” he said. “Today's race doesn't mean much. Anything can happen at the world championships.”
According to the Russian racer, to become world champion will require a time below 1:06. The current world record is Kjeld Nuis' 1:06.18.
“I think that five or six skaters are able to break that 1:06 barrier,” Kulizhnikov said. “Myself, Krol, Nuis, [Kai] Verbij…”
Kulizhnikov (RUS, centre) will face a worlds challenge from Thomas Krol (NED, left) and Kjeld Nuis (NED, right) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Krol and Nuis skated against each other in the penultimate pair in Calgary. The teammates push each other to a higher level - but not high enough to challenge Kulizhnikov.
“The gap [with Kulizhnikov] is smaller than at the European Championships [in January],” Krol said.
“And at the European Championships I really did not have a clue where to gain time on him. I felt that I skated the perfect race there, and now I absolutely did not. There were too many little mistakes, so I know I could have gone faster.
“I'd rather have beaten him [Kulizhnikov] here, but I do what I can and next week it's going to go a lot faster.”
Nuis, who had a tough time recovering from illness in December, got a confidence boost despite the big margin enjoyed by Kulizhnikov.
“I'm happy that I'm back at this level, the level of Thomas Krol,” he said. “That's much better than two weeks ago. I'm still improving every day.
"We still have to go half a second faster, but I was not too impressed by his [Kulizhnikov's] time. I skated 1:06.51 here three years ago, he's just 0.02 faster.
“On the other hand, the big margin [between Kulizhnikov and himself] did impress me. Half a second is quite a lot, but I still have a week to work on that.”
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 1000m Men
Patrick Roest (NED) was pushed all the way by the Canadians in Men's 5000m 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Men’s 5000m: Roest rules the roost
Patrick Roest (NED) has been unbeatable in the men's 5000m so far this season, but he struggled to maintain his grip in Calgary.
Local favorite Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN) had stopped the clock at 6:07.42 in the third-last pairing and Roest was behind Bloemen's split times for most of the race.
With one lap to go, the Dutchman trailed by half a second.
“I just wanted to win,” Roest said. “When I saw that margin heading into the final lap, I knew it would be possible if I went full gas.”
Roest rocketed over the line in 6:07.40 to take his fourth World Cup win of the season, but at what cost?
“I wanted to be careful [not to waste too much energy a week before the world championships] but when you see a time like [Bloemen's] it's hard to hold back.
“I went pretty deep. It's not that I skated in the red zone during the final six laps, but that final lap really hurt. Now I have to rest a lot the next couple of days.”
Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN) missed out by just 0.02secs in a "great confidence booster" in Calgary 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Bloemen, who saw his compatriot Graeme Fish take bronze in 6:10.58, was content with silver.
"At first I was a little annoyed when Patrick crossed the line, but now I'm just very happy to be back and to come this close.
"Roest has dominated the 5000m this whole season, and now I'm just 0.02 behind. That's a great confidence booster for next week.
"For me it took very long before everything fell into place this season, but it finally did today and I'm just stoked to be able to fight for the prizes next week."
Another man who is happy to be able to be back in contention for the world championships is Sven Kramer (NED). The Olympic 5000m champion has struggled with a back injury for most of the season and started in the B Division in Calgary.
Having qualified for the 5000m in Salt Lake City, Kramer decided to test himself at the Olympic Oval. The Dutchman skated 28-second laps throughout the first part of his race and was at world-record pace before he stunned the crowd by calling it quits after 3000m.
"I would not have done this if I had skated in the A Division," he said. "But skating in the non-televised B Division I felt that I could experiment a bit.
"I wanted to test myself at the speed that is needed to skate a world record next week, but to do that for a full 5000m would be too much only a week ahead of the world championships.
"I'm really happy with how I felt on the ice. This was the ideal way to get ready for next week."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 5000m Men
Men's 5000m medalists (from left): Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN), Patrick Roest (NED) and Graeme Fish (CAN) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)