Ragne Wiklund (NOR) made Speed Skating history on the final day of the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen with a surprise win in the Ladies’ 1500m. The 20-year-old from Oslo became only the second Norwegian female world champion in Speed Skating history, and the first since 1938. In the concluding 5000m, Irene Schouten (NED) took gold to make amends for a disappointing third place in Saturday’s Mass Start.
Everyone crying but Wiklund
Throughout Speed Skating history, Norway has been a powerhouse in the Men’s competitions but the nation’s Ladies lagged far behind their male counterparts. Before Wiklund conquered the 1500m on Sunday, 1937 and 1938 World Allround champion Laila Schou-Nilsen was the only Norwegian lady to win a world title on the blades.
(L-R) Brittany Bowe (USA), Ragne Wiklund (NOR) and Evgeniia Lalenkova (RSU) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
“I don’t think I kind of realize it yet,” Wiklund said. “When I was on the infield, everyone started crying and I couldn’t take it in myself.”
The Norwegian prodigy had never expected to top the 1500m podium in Heerenveen so soon. She explained: “I looked at the times from the previous World Cups before I went to sleep yesterday and I saw that I was almost precisely two seconds behind the gold. I thought [the World Championship] podium was in reach, but I never thought about the gold.”
Starting in the seventh pairing Wiklund set a personal-best one minute, 54.61 seconds, and that appeared to be a high bar for the rest of the field. None of the other Ladies were able to skate under 1:55.
Brittany Bowe (USA) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Having won the previous two World Cup races Brittany Bowe (USA) was the big favorite but she finished 0.42s short to take silver, barely holding off Evgenia Lalenkova (RSU), who took bronze in 1:55.09.
In the final pairing, Thursday’s 3000m champion Antoinette de Jong (NED) and defending 1500m champion Ireen Wüst (NED) also failed to match Wiklund’s time, finishing in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Wiklund had been too nervous to look at the scoreboard during those final races, while her team-mates already cheered in excitement.
“I told the others, ‘Don’t jinx it, don’t jinx it’,” she laughed after the race.
Bowe paid tribute to Wiklund. “Of course, I wanted to win this one, but I can’t say enough congratulations to Ragne [Wiklund],” she said. “She completely deserved that well-earned victory. To be a world champion at 20 years old, that’s awesome.”
Evgeniia Lalenkova (RSU) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Lalenkova, who won 1500m silver at the World Championships last year, was happy to bring home another medal after her bronze in the Team Pursuit on Friday.
“Today was a tougher medal than the Team Pursuit,” she said. “The last two pairs I had my fingers crossed. Please, please, I’d been in fourth place six times last season and twice this season. Fourth place is OK in the World Cups, as long as I manage to get on the podium at the World Championships and the Olympic Games.”
Schouten driven by disappointment
Irene Schouten (NED) turned anger into speed after her disappointing bronze medal in the Mass Start on Saturday.
Irene Schouten (NED) at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
“Yesterday, I was really disappointed,” she said cherishing the 5000m gold medal around her neck. “I had a lot of anger inside, I had to turn that into fast skating and I managed to. Now I’m super happy.”
Schouten stopped the clock at 6:48.53 in the first of six 5000m pairings, with a game plan of decreasing lap times towards the end of her race.
“My first three laps were not good,” Schouten explained. “But in the 5000m you’ve got time to make amends.”
Many other Ladies started faster but slowed in the final laps. Natalya Voronina (RSU) limited the damage and finished second in 6:50.99, having scared Schouten with a fast opening section.
“Looking at that race, I thought I wasted too much time in the beginning,” Schouten said. “Some girls were four seconds ahead of me and that’s quite a lot. My final lap in 31.0 was pretty fast so I knew they would still lose a lot too, but to finally win this… awesome.”
Carlijn Achtereekte (NED) leaves Heerenveen with a bronze medal having finished in 6:52.22 and also lost out in the final laps. She had mixed feelings: “Today is the anniversary of my parents’ wedding day and my mother not being with us any more… I wanted to make her proud and I managed to, but partly. I’d rather have had that top spot on the podium.”
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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