Sunday, March 15, 2009

World Speed Skating - Day 4

It's the fourth and final day of the ISU World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships at the new Richmond Olympic Oval just outside of Vancouver, BC. This will be the site of the long-track speed skating at next year's 2010 Winter Games.

Today featured the 500 meter sprint events for both the men and the women. This consisted of two heats each, first the women and then the men, with the winner having the lowest combined time for the two heats.


With the athletes going all out, the day wasn't without mishap. A number of skaters fell, including Paulina Wallin of Sweden, who crashed just a few meters from the start of her second heat.


The ladies' event was won by Jenny Wolf of Germany, with a combined time of 75.750 seconds.


Second was Beixing Wang of China with a combined time of 75.870, followed by Sang-Hwa Lee of Korea at 76.390.


The Korean and Chinese men also dominated the men's sprints. Although Tucker Fredericks of the USA had the third fastest time in the second heat, Korean's Kang-Seok Lee and Kyou-Hyuk Lee skated head-to-head in the final pairing of the second heat, after finishing 1 and 2 in the first. They managed to hold on to first and second place, finishing with combined times of 69.730 and 69.920, respectively.


The bronze medal was won by Fengtong Yu of China. With the third fastest time in the first heat and second fastest of the second, he finished with a combined time of 69.970.


Attention then turned to the team pursuit competition. A recent addition to the World Cup schedule, the team pursuit pits two teams of three skaters in a race against the clock. The teams start on opposite sides of the ice, with both teams skating in the inner lane. The women skate six laps, the men eight, with the time recorded when the third skater on the team crosses the finish. It's a high-speed ballet, with the three skaters trying to be as aerodynamic as possible.


Once again, the Canadian women proved their dominence. Skating against Poland, the team of Christine Nesbitt, Kristina Groves, and Brittany Schussler finished the six lap race in 2 minutes 58.25 seconds. The Dutch team was second in 3:02.02 and Japan third in 3:04.06.


The men's race provided an exciting finale for the day. The USA team, which had never won a team pursuit medal at any Olympic or world championship event was paired in the second heat against the Dutch team (seen here). The Netherlands has won gold in every world single distances championship team pursuit ever staged. The strong Italian team was matched up against Canada in the final heat of the day.


In the end, the Dutch team prevailed, capturing the gold with a race-winning time of 3:41.26. Sweden took the silver medal at 3:45.73. But the USA team of Trevor Marsicano, Brian Hansen, and Ryan Bedford captured the bronze with a time of 3 minutes 46.07 seconds.

All told, the weekend proved to be a tremendous success, both as a try-out of the new Richmond Olympic Oval, and for the Canadian and USA teams. Canada and the Netherlands captured the most medals, at 8 each. The USA was second with six, including gold, silver, and two bronze medals won by Trevor Marsicano. For Canada, it was the women who dominated, with six medals while all six USA medals were won by the men.

Other medal winners included Germany and Korea with 3 each, Czech Repulic, Norway, and China each with 2, and Japan and Sweden each winning 1 medal. A total of 21 countries were represented.

And of course, I've got many more photos from today's exciting action. You can see them on my Flickr site.

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