A total of 157 personal bests, 6 track records and the first World Record at the sea-level Thialf track since 2007 as a climax on the final Sunday. The Heerenveen Speed Skating hub was a huge success and not only by the numbers.
Most impressive number is 0
After the first half of the 2020/21 Speed Skating season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Skating Union (ISU) and Organizing Committee (OC) put in place a plan to organize a condensed season of four events in a Speed Skating bubble in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. It turned out to be a massive success. The results on the track were sensational, but the most impressive number was 0, the number of positive COVID-19 infections identified in the competition bubble.
With 28 participating nations and 450 people at four hotels, keeping the hub safe was not easy. Organizing logistics, pathways and disciplined human behavior was key.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed to the success of these events. Thank you for spending up to five weeks in a hotel without seeing your family and friends and following the health measures every day. You are all real ambassadors for the sport!” said Jan Dijkema, ISU President.
Van der Poel brings bubble to climax
A job well done it was for Nils van der Poel too. The 24-year-old Swede won his maiden world title beating Dutch favorite Patrick Roest in the Men’s 5000m on the opening day of the ISU World Speed Skating Championships and finished the bubble with arguably the most impressive 12 minutes, 32.95 seconds of Speed Skating this season.
Clocking the first world record at the sea-level Thialf track in fourteen years, he won the Men’s 10,000m by a 12.91 second margin over silver medallist Jorrit Bergsma (NED). Sven Kramer (NED) was the last skater to set a world record in an individual distance in Thialf, when he skated 10,000m in 12:49.88 in 2007.
Van der Poel was the only male skater to come away with two ISU World Speed Skating Championship titles from the Heerenveen hub.
Thomas Krol (NED), who had won the ISU European Sprint Speed Skating Championships, two 1500m golds, a 1000m gold and a 1000m silver ISU World Cup Speed Skating medal, got disqualified in the 1000m at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships, but made amends winning the 1500m on Sunday.
Kai Verbij (NED) won his career second ISU World Speed Skating title in the 1000m, making up for a crash that blew his chances of winning a third ISU European Sprint Speed Skating title in the first weekend.
“It seems as if we have been granting it to each other,” Krol commented. “Me taking the European title after his crash and him winning the 1000m after my disqualification.”
Winning the ISU European Allround Speed Skating title and two 5000m gold in the ISU World Cup, skating a track record along the way, Patrick Roest had hoped to win his maiden Single Distances title at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships, but his campaign ended up in disillusionment.
The Dutchman got silver in the 5000m and finished seventh in the 10,000m. Winning the Team Pursuit together with Beau Snellink and Marcel Bosker was little consolation. “Of course it’s nice, my first title at the World Single Distance Championships, but I had other things in my mind.”
Laurent Dubreuil also won his career first single distance title, but to him it was the pinnacle of his Speed Skating life so far. “This was the best race of my career,” he said cherishing the 500m gold. The Canadian even added a 1000m bronze to his tally one day later.
While the Dutch had dominated the Men’s Mass start with gold medals for Jorrit Bergsma and Arjan Stroetinga, USA’s Joey Mantia ran away with his career third ISU World Speed Skating title after a powerful final sprint.
Wiklund makes Norwegian history
Ragne Wiklund was the biggest surprise of the Ladies’ ISU World Speed Skating Championships. On the final day, the 20-year old won the 1500m to become only the second Norwegian female world champion in Speed Skating history, and the first since 1937 and 1938 ISU World Allround Speed Skating Champion Laila Schou-Nilsen.
Wiklund edged out American favorite Brittany Bowe, who had won two golds in both the 1500m and the 1000m ISU World Cup Speed Skating races previously.
“Of course I wanted to win this one,” Bowe said. “but I can’t say enough congratulations to Ragne [Wiklund]. She completely deserved that well-earned victory. To be a world champion at 20 years old, that’s awesome.”
Bowe was happy to take 1500m silver after she had already collected the 1000m ISU World Speed Skating title, edging out Jutta Leerdam on Saturday. Leerdam celebrated the taste of gold a few weeks earlier, when she won the ISU European Sprint Speed Skating title.
Antoinette de Jong started the bubble defending her ISU European Allround Speed Skating title successfully. At the ISU World Speed Skating Championships she and Irene Schouten were the only Ladies to win two gold medals. The two joined Ireen Wüst in the Dutch Team Pursuit success, while De Jong took the individual title in the 3000m and Schouten in the 5000m.
With her 5000m win Schouten made amends for her disappointing bronze medal in the Mass Start, when team-mate Marijke Groenewoud won the title at her ISU World Speed Skating Championships debut, while she actually had planned to lead out the final sprint for Schouten.
“It was too confusing to cheer,” Groenewoud smiled, “But on the podium I put my arms up in the air.”
In the Ladies 500m Angelina Golikova (RSU) had come second behind 20-year-old revelation Femke Kok (NED) four times in the ISU World Cup Speed Skating, but when it came down to a world title race the 29-year-old from Moscow was 0.14 faster, taking her maiden gold at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships.
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