Kai Verbij cashed in on his steeply rising performance curve in the Heerenveen bubble, winning his career-second 1000m World title on Saturday. The Dutchman, and Pavel Kulizhnikov (RSU) and Laurent Dubreuil (CAN), who grabbed silver and bronze respectively, took full advantage of Verbij’s compatriot Thomas Krol’s disqualification for two false starts. Joey Mantia (USA) celebrated his third Mass Start world title, leaving Arjan Stroetinga (NED) and Bart Swings (BEL) behind with a powerful sprint in the final lap.
Verbij on the up ‘like cryptocurrency’
Kai Verbij (NED) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
When Kai Verbij (NED) faced Thursday’s 500m winner Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) in the third-last pairing of the 1000m, only Håvard Lorentzen (NOR) and Marten Liiv (EST), the previous duo, had finished in under one minute, nine seconds. The Norwegian and the Estonian just fell off the podium, however.
Verbij crossed the line in 1:08.05s, with Dubreuil finishing 0.51 seconds later.
Pavel Kulizhnikov (RSU) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
With Krol, the 2019 silver medalist, and Kulizhnikov, the world record holder and defending champion, skating in the penultimate and the final pairings respectively, Verbij and Dubreuil were far from certain of glory at the time, but Krol messed up his start and Kulizhnikov fell short.
“I don’t know what happened,” Krol said after his disqualification for two false starts. “I did not stand still twice, and then you’re out. That’s the rules and those rules apply to me too.”
In the final pairing Kulizhnikov, who had already won 500m silver on Friday, managed to beat Dubreuil’s time, but his 1:08.31 was 0.26s short of Verbij’s.
“It was my third 1000m this season and I got silver,” Kulizhnikov said. “I have two silver medals after all the troubles with COVID-19 [the 26-year-old was infected in December] and muscle problems at the World Cup 2. I think it's a good result.”
Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Dubreuil had mixed feelings about his bronze medal. “I got lucky today,” he said. “I think Thomas [Krol] would have beaten me for sure but we’ll never know. It’s unfortunate for him but I did my own race and my race was OK but I would have liked for him to race. I want to beat guys and I don’t want to win because they do two false starts. I feel bad for him.”
Verbij, who beat Krol in the 1000m at the last World Cup before the World Championships, was happy with his medal and progress. “I had some ups and downs this season, and if you look at my pre-season, I had not expected this [World title],” he said.
“But since I’m in the bubble my performance has gone upwards steeply. I’m like a cryptocurrency, but it’s a cryptocurrency that doesn’t lose value.”
Mantia matches Davis’ achievement
Collecting his third Mass Start gold puts Mantia level with his legendary countryman Shani Davis as only US skaters to win three world titles in a specific event at the ISU World Single Distance Championships. Davis won 1500m gold in 2004, 2007 and 2009, and went one better in the 1000m, taking the title in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2015.
Joey Mantia (USA) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
“Really?” Mantia said. “That’s cool, but Shani has a few more Olympic medals than I, so he’s still winning.”
Mantia felt great coming into the World Championships, which had not been obvious beforehand.
“[It’s been] a weird few weeks,” he explained. “After having COVID in December I didn’t really know what to expect.
“I was skating pretty well in practice but I was really, really tired all the time. The last two World Cups were really rough. The races weren’t overly fast but I just felt I couldn’t keep up. I had no legs.”
(L-R) Arjan Stroetinga (NED), Joey Mantia (USA) and Bart Swings (BEL) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Hard work and training volume to build stamina over the past two weeks helped Mantia back into shape and technically he felt better than ever.
“I said to my coach, ‘Man, if I get on to the ice and my body gives me what I want it to give me, I’m going to win.’ I was extremely confident.”
Once the two were caught with about five laps to go, Mantia was ready to roll.
He added: “I felt like I could do whatever I wanted and coming down to five laps, I was just licking my chops because I knew, given the opportunity and a clear line, I should be able to win.”
Where to Watch
Viewers will be able to watch the ISU Speed Skating competitions that will take place within the hub either via their national broadcaster / channel and for countries where there are no broadcasters, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel.
All the information is available in the Where to Watch which will be updated after each competition. The individual announcements and entry lists will be published under the respective events as soon as they are available. For further information regarding the ISU Speed Skating Hub please visit: https://www.isu.org/heerenveen2021.
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