HEERENVEEN, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 07: Heather Richardson (L) and Brittany Bowe of the USA competes in the 1000m Ladies race during day 1 of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating held at Thialf Ice Arena on February 7, 2015 in Heerenveen, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Heather Richardson (USA) showed great form one week ahead of the World Single Distance Championships in the Thialf speed skating Arena in Heerenveen. On the first day of the Sprint World Cup she won both the 500m and the 1000m in Heerenveen as well. This season’s sprint revelation Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) won the 500m, but he had to settle for silver in the 1000m behind Kjeld Nuis (NED), who beat him in the final pair of the longest sprint distance. Junior Vanessa Bittner (AUT) skated a national record of 38.26. Two ladies and three men improved their personal best times.
Richardson dominant in strong 500m field
In the sixth pair Bittner came close when she set a new Austrian of 38.26, with a 10.55 opener and a 27.7 lap. In pair eight Heather Richardson set an unprecedented 27.1 lap after a 10.67 opening to set 37.82. Richardson was the first to skate below 38 seconds and eventually proved to be the only one.
In the final pair World Cup leader Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) faced Nao Kodaira (JPN), who was faster in the opening and held on to her advantage in the full lap. Kodaira opened in 10.49 versus 10.54 for Lee and Kodaira even gained a bit more in her 27.6 lap to set 38.14. She took her second victory over Lee, but it was not enough to beat Richardson. Lee finished in 38.29 and ended up in a disappointing fifth place.
Bowe took bronze and Bittner ended up fourth. Lee still leads the World Cup with 800 points. Kodaira follows with 690 in second place. Richardson passed Judith Hesse (GER) and Margot Boer (NED) to move up to rank three with 410 points.
Richardson and Bowe top the 1000m once again
Kali Christ (CAN) set the first sub-1:17 in pair three when she set 1:16.90 with a 29.5 final lap. With only three pairs to go she still led the pack, but in pair eight the American duo Richardson and Bowe crushed the rest of the field with a first lap of 27.7. Richardson concluded with a 29.3 lap to set 1:14.87 and Bowe stopped the clock at 1:15.38.
In the next pair Karolina Erbanová (CZE) outskated Ireen Wüst (NED) and to finish in 1:15.95. Wüst had to settle for 1:16.32.
In the final pair the best two skaters in the World Cup ranking took the ice: Qishi Li (CHN) and Marrit Leenstra (NED). The 21-year-old Chinese was best of the rest in 1:15.89 to take bronze.
Erbanova had to settle for rank 4 and Leenstra finished between Wüst and Christ in 6th place with 1:16.36.
Li still leads the World Cup with 380 points, Leenstra retained second place with 321 and Richardson moved up to third with 280 points, Erbanová dropped to fourth, then follow Bowe and Wüst.
Richardson is confident for the World Single Distance Championships next week: “It felt good, I was just trying to be relaxed and confident and it worked out. I am excited to see what I’m able to do; I’m really happy with the 500m right now. I am able to maintain my speed better as I skate more relaxed. I should be able to do what I have shown now. It will be fun.”
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