Saturday, March 14, 2009

World Speed Skating Championships - Day 3

It's Saturday, Day 3 of the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Championship at the new Richmond Olympic Oval.


The weekend brought a sellout crowd, including a huge Dutch contingent. Today marks the running of the long distance events, the men's 10,000 meter and the women's 5000 meter.


The Canadian women's continue to do incredibly well on their new home ice, with Christine Nesbitt capturing the gold with a time of 1:16.28 in the Women's 1000 meter.


Then, the action moved to the men's 10,000 meter, the longest event of the weekend. While it may be the national sport of the Netherlands, eight heats of more than 25 laps each did tax the crowd a bit. There's much more strategy to this race, with the coaches shouting instructions to their skaters as they change lanes midway through each lap.


The 10,000 meter is dominated by skaters from the Netherlands and Norway. Here, Sven Kramer of the Netherlands maintains a grueling pace midway through the race. He eventually won with a time of 12:55.32.


He was paired with Norwegian Havard Bokko, who eventually came in second with a time of 13:03.95. Bob de Jong (shown here) from the Netherlands was third in a time of 13:13.16 just edging out fellow Dutchman Carl Verheijen at 13:13.30.


Like I said, it wasn't at all surprising to find two Dutchmen, Sven Kramer (gold) and Bob de Jong (bronze) and Norwegian Havard Bokko on the podium.


The big Dutch crowd loved it, of course.


The final event of the long afternoon was the Women's 5000 meter, the longest women's event. Once again, the Canadia women did very well, with crowd favorite Clara Hughes, skating in heat 5, finishing with a time of 7:00.54, which proved good enough for a silver medal. Seeing a skater put up such a fast time in an early heat is always exciting, because the heats are set up with the faster skaters in the later heats.


Controversy once again reared its head during the women's races, but this time the controversy did not involve a Canadian skater. Masako Hozumi of Japan, circling the ice on the inner lane after completing her 5000 meter heat, drifted into lane one and collided with Czech skater Martina Sablikova who was lining up for the next heat.


Happily, Sablikova was not hurt and after a delay and repair of the ice, was able to skate her heat again anadian Kristina Groves. Groves finished in 7:02.91, which was good enough for the bronze.


But Sablikova, coming back from her mishap before the start, put up an incredible time of 6:57.84, winning the gold in the Women's 5000 meter.


So once again, a pair of Canadian women end up on the podium flanking a European skater.

Tomorrow is the final day of the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Championship. I'll be back to cover the men's and women's 500 meter and the men's and women's team pursuit.

And of course, you can find more photos from today's event on my Flickr site.

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