Jutta Leerdam (NED) and Femke Kok (NED) set up an exciting battle for the title on the first day of the ISU World Sprint Championships in Hamar on Thursday. After Kok had won the 500m and Leerdam the 1000m, the Dutch youngsters were only 0.07 points apart with Leerdam on top. Vanessa Herzog (AUT) is third after coming second in the 500m and fourth in the 1000m.
Kok wins 500m with superb full lap
Kok started the tournament by winning the 500m in 37.78 seconds. All other skaters in the top five of the first distance had a faster opener but none got anywhere near Kok’s staggering full lap of 27.13.
“It was far from flawless,” Kok said. “I had a couple of big mishits at the start of my 500m. It was a bad opener but in the end it was enough to win. I was really happy with my full lap and that gave me a lot of confidence for the 1000m.”
Femke Kok © International Skating Union
Vanessa Herzog (AUT) finished second in the 500m. With 10.57s, the 2019 European Sprint Champion opened 0.06s faster than Kok but her full lap was 0.32s slower. Poland’s Kaja Ziomek and Andzelika Wójcik had superfast openers in 10.38s and 10.35s but ended up tied for third in 37.94s.
Leerdam was not able to match the explosive power of the 500m specialists. “My 500m felt completely off,” she said. “When I finished I looked at my coach and I thought, I did not get any stroke right.” Leerdam finished in 38.11 trailing Kok by 0.32 seconds. “Three tenths is a lot,” she said. “But considering how (bad) I skated, it’s not too bad after all.”
Leerdam takes control in 1000m
Leerdam was able to make amends in the 1000m, winning in one minute, 14.88 seconds. “I had to switch focus quickly and I managed,” she explained. “I did not dare take too many risks because I lacked the feeling in the 500m, so I took more time, skated more in control and often I skate faster because of that.”
Jutta Leerdam © International Skating Union
Leerdam was the only woman to skate faster than 1:15 in the 1000m. Kok came second in 1:15.68 and Kimi Goetz (USA) took third place in 1:15.89. Kok had not skated a 1000m since claiming silver at the European Single Distance Championships in January. She failed to qualify for the event at the Olympics, where she solely focused on the 500m. “I had to get used to it again (the 1000m),” she said. “The way I skated my full lap in the 500m had given me some confidence heading into the 1000m. I’m happy with my race but I hope to go a little faster tomorrow.”
Despite conceding 0.80s in the second distance, Kok only trails Leerdam by 0.07 points halfway through the tournament. The difference equals 0.07s in the 500m and that gave Kok a confidence boost heading into the second day. “It’s close and Jutta cannot afford to make any mistakes. It’s sprint, so it’s always tight. I think I can gain a lot in the 500m.”
(L-R) Femke Kok, Jutta Leerdam and Kimi Goetz © International Skating Union
Leerdam was also confident heading into the second day. “(The gap is small) but last year at the European Sprint Championships I was second after the first day and I had to make up everything on the second day. The final distance (1000m) on the second day is my favourite distance and it’s not for most sprinters, so when I’m still in a good position after three distances, I can skate my 1000m in control again.”
Herzog came fourth in the 1000m and sits third in the ranking. Kok thinks that Herzog will probably not be able to fight for the title anymore. “I think it’s between us two (her and Leerdam),” she said. “But we cannot afford to make any mistakes. We have to skate two more races and we’ll see where that leaves us at the end of tomorrow.”
Vanessa Herzog © International Skating Union