Kulizhnikov big surprise of first ISU World Cup - News

17-11-2014

The international speed skating season for our skaters has started! The first ISU World Cup In Obihiro, Japan finished last Sunday. One of the highlights was the victory of young Russian Pavel Kulizhnikov.

Kulizhnikov big surprise of the weekend
The international sprint top has a new competitor to watch closely: Pavel Kulizhnikov settled his name in Obihiro. The 20-year-old Russian stunted in the 500 meters by first winning silver and then tackling the gold while he also won gold in the 1000 meters. In the first 500 meters, the young Kulizhnikov already showed his class. He raced across the ice in an excellent time of 35.16 and remained exactly one tenth of a second behind winner Jan Smeekens. Kulizhnikov also saw his compatriot Ruslan Murashov even finish third in 35.24.
Two days later Kulizhnikov did even better. In the penultimate race against the German Nico Ihle the Russian popped out a 34'er. With a hand to the ice in the last corner, he crossed the line in 34.96 and was thus the first and only one of this World Cup weekend who remained below the limit of 35 seconds. A race later Jan Smeekens was not able to beat his time: 35.09. In the 1000 meters, Kulizhnikov made the tale complete. He won that distance as well. The Russian stopped the clock at 1.09,23, four hundredths faster than Kjeld Nuis. The gap behind to number three was immense: half a second.
Meanwhile, the young Russian is praised internationally. Former World Champion Erben Wennemars compared him with Jeremy Wotherspoon, the current coach of the Kia Speed Skating Academy. "He has the same physical appearance, but also has the same style on the ice", thought Wennemars.

Bronze medal for Chinese Qishi Li
Qishi Li is one of the relatively unknown Chinese talents. Although the 21-year-old skater from Jilin City already competed for her country in Sochi, she never came to striking performances. However, she did well in Obihiro, where she even surprisingly reached to the podium at the 1000 meters. Li rushed to a time of 1.16,54 and thus she was the best of the rest behind the two Dutch women Marrit Leenstra (1.16,23) and Ireen Wust (1.16,34). But the gap to that top was so small that Li should definitely see chance to close this gap this season.
It was not the only medal that Qishi Li took from Obihiro. The Chinese also competed in the 1500 meters, the distance at which she started in Sochi. However, in this World Cup she came out in the B-Division. Li won that distance, with a time of 1.58,95 and was the only one below two minutes. Next World Cup, Li will now start in the A-division, in which she would have finished fourth with her time. Surely we will see her battling for medals soon.

Double victory for Ivanie Blondin
Ivanie Blondin is showing the speed skating world that her transfer from short track to long track was the right move. The 24-year-old Canadian nearly quit the sport after she had missed out on short track qualification of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, but now she shows to be a serious contender in long track. In Obihiro she even won two gold medals. In the 3000 meters B-division event, she crushed her components by racing a time of 4.08,23. Number two Yuliya Skokova was nearly four seconds slower in 4.12,19.
After that, Blondin also showed her strength and speed in the new Mass Start event. She kept quiet at the moment that Sablikova tried to break loose, but she was alert when the Czech skater was caught again. Blondin started the sprint from the front and managed to keep that position and beat Japanese Nana Takagi and Dutch Irene Schouten for the podium. A victory with big value for Blondin, since she now knows that she can compete with the best in this new event, which probably will become Olympic soon. "To transfer to long track was the best decision of my life," she realized.

Olga Fatkulina grabs bronze on 500 meters
In Obihiro Olga Fatkulina showed everyone that she still belongs to the absolute top of sprinting. The Russian skater maybe even was one the most consistent skaters over two distances. She managed to take a bronze medal back home from Japan. Fatkulina won that medal on the first 500 meters event. In that race, she only had to let Sang-Hwa Lee and Nao Kodaira pass her in the ranking, who clocked 38,07 and 38,18. Fatkulina saw that the gap was serious to her 38,50, but at the same time she gained over a quarter of a second on Judith Hesse and Margot Boer.
In the second race, the 24-year-old Fatkulina was one hundredth of a second faster than her first race: 38,49. It did not bring her a medal this time, since she finished sixth in the event. Besides the 500 meter, Fatkulina also started on the 1000 and 1500 meter. In the 1000 meters, she raced a time of 1.16,89 and in the 1500 meters she reaced place 15 with her time of 2.01,77.

Hong Zhang just misses the podium
At the start of the international speed skating season, Hong Zhang had to accept the fact that she could not yet win a medal. But the 26-year-old Chinese still had a good and decent start on 'her' 1000 meters, in which she is the Olympic Champion. The skater from Harbin just missed the podium with a fourth place, but her time of 1.16,78 for sure gives her the confidence for the rest of the season. She only had to see Dutch skaters Marrit Leenstra and Ireen Wust and her team mate Qishi Li pass her in the final ranking.
On the 500 meter events, the results of Zhang were a little more concerning. She reached no further than a 13th (39,05) and a 16th (39,19) position. Clearly she will know what she has to work on the coming weeks.

The next event of the ISU World Cup will be held in Seoul, Korea on 21, 22 and 23 November.


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