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ISU World Cup Speed Skating Final
The Essent ISU World Cup Speed Skating series comes to an end with the Final which will take place from March 14-16 in Heerenveen, the Netherlands where only the best ranked skaters of the season will compete.
In the 500m, 1000m and 1500m only the best 24 skaters in the World Cup ranking can compete in 10 pairs, and for the 3000 ladies and the 5000m men that concerns the 20 best for 8 pairs. However if nobody is absent only the 20 best skaters for the shorter distances or 16 skaters for the longer distances will be able to race. The Korean and Chinese skaters will not be present in Heerenveen.
On Friday, the 1500m for ladies is scheduled, followed by the Mass Start races, both for ladies and men.
In the 1500m for ladies, Olympic silver medalist Ireen Wüst (NED) leads the World Cup with 380 points, a 66 point lead over Brittany Bowe (USA). Lotte van Beek (NED) is only 4 points behind Bowe.
Olympic champion Jorien ter Mors (NED) will not be competing, as she is participating in the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Montreal (CAN). Wüst needs to finish top-four to secure the World Cup, so normally Bowe and Van Beek compete for the second place, as Wüst only got one second place finish in Calgary. Yuliya Skokova (RUS) is fourth with 238 points.
The Mass Start has not been on the program much this season; last weekend in Inzell the first of two races was skated; Claudia Pechstein (GER) won and thus is in the lead in the ranking, and in the men’s field, the leader is Arjan Stroetinga (NED). Behind Pechstein follow three Dutch Ladies Janneke Ensing, Irene Schouten and Mariska Huisman, who will be determined to take the victory home in Heerenveen. Behind Stroetinga, Bart Swings (BEL) is ranked second and Bob de Vries (NED) third, followed by two American skaters Patrick Meek and Brian Hansen and then Fredrik van der Horst (NOR). Anyone can still win the mass-start.
Saturday will see the 3000m for ladies, the 1500m for men, and for both the first 500m of the weekend, followed by the Team Pursuit for men. In the Team Pursuit only the four best ranked national teams in the World Cup ranking will race, and if one of them is absent, the next ranked team will skate.
In the 3000m two of the three Olympic medalists will compete. Wüst will not start in this distance. She had gold in Sochi, but she won only the World Cup race in Inzell and has two third places, adding up to rank 3 with 240 points.
The Olympic 3000m silver medalist and 5000m Olympic Champion Martina Sáblíková (CZE) currently leads the World Cup Rankings with 460 points. Claudia Pechstein (GER) is the only one who could overtake Sáblíková, but she has always been first or second in this distance, and a top-5 finish in Heerenveen will be enough for her to take the World Cup.
What is more, she has won this World Cup 7 times in a row, and will most likely add an 8th time to her unique dominance. Gunda Niemann (GER) won the World Cup in this distance 10 times, but not more than five times in a row. Niemann won the 1500m as Jenny Wolf (GER) dominated the 500m: 6 years in a row.
The 500m races are spread over two days. In the ladies’ field Olympic Champion Sang-Hwa Lee leads with 700 points and close behind are Heather Richardson with 690 and the Olympic silver medalist Olga Fatkulina with 660.
However the Korean team will not be in Heerenveen, therefore the battle will be between Richardson and Fatkulina.
Jenny Wolf (GER), who dominated this distance for years, will end her career here in Heerenveen, hoping for one more victory to complete 50. This is possible as this season brought her four second places behind Lee, but last week the other two were ahead of her twice.
The 1000m for ladies has no Olympic Champion competing as Hong Zhang (CHN) announced the end of her season after the Games.
Ireen Wüst who won Olympic silver is racing and so is Margot Boer, bronze in Sochi. However, the top skaters in the World Cup are from the USA, Richardson leads with 480 and Bowe has 410 points. This could well mean that Richardson will take both the 500 and the 1000m this year as well as the Grand World Cup.
Fatkulina is third with 320 points, which means she cannot overtake Richardson and only Bowe could do that if Richardson finishes outside the top 4. Lotte van Beek and Boer follow with 208 and 191 points. Wüst with 110 points will not be racing for an overall podium position.
The Team Pursuit will be between the Dutch Olympic Champions, the silver medalists from Poland and Japan (fourth in Sochi) and Canada. The Dutch lead with 300 points and have already won the World Cup. Poland has 195, Canada 190 and Japan 180.