Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) wins the 500m, Vanessa Bittner revelation for Austria
Olympic Champion Sang-Hwa Lee won the Ladies' 500m in 38.07, edging out Nao Kodaira (JPN) by only 0.11 seconds. Olga Fatkulina (RUS) took the bronze in 38.50. The track record (38.03) of the retired Jenny Wolf (GER) survived.
Vanessa Bittner (AUT) won the B-division in 38.50, which was the fastest time of the day until Kodaira set 38.18 in the fifth pair of the A-division. Kodaira went to the Netherlands to train with coach Marianne Timmer and Olympic bronze medalist Margot Boer (NED), and she managed to beat her tutor. Boer set 38.73 in the A-division to end up fifth. Judith Hesse (GER) got exactly the same time as Boer, but was ranked just above her.
In the final pair the gold and bronze medalists of the Sochi Olympic Games were paired. Lee set 10.43 on the first straight, not her fastest start ever but fast enough to stay ahead of Kodaira, even with a 27.6 lap. Fatkulina finished in 38.50, keeping Hesse off the podium, but slower than Bittner had been in the B-division. The 19-year-old Austrian has a chance to go for the podium in the second 500m race this weekend, when she is allowed to start in the A-division. The American ladies, who had the fastest times this season, did not race.
Ireen Wüst (NED) strong in the 3000m, Sábliková settles for silver
Olympic Champion Ireen Wüst (NED) repeated what she did at the Olympic Games in Sochi, she kept Martina Sábliková (CZE) off the 3000m gold. Wüst brought the track record to 4:04.91, Sábliková finished in 4:06.11 and Jorien Voorhuis (NED) took bronze in 4:07.04.
The track record first tumbled in the B-division, when Ivanie Blondin (CAN) finished far ahead of the rest in 4:08.23. Her time stood until Diane Valkenburg (NED) skated 4:07.57 in the fourth pair of the A-division. Valkenburg could not enjoy the lead for long, as Voorhuis had a slightly stronger finish and reached 4:07.04 in the fifth pair.
The penultimate pair featured the two best skaters of the past Olympics: Wüst and Sábliková. Dutch stronghold, who had just travelled to Bangkok to accept the ANOC award for the best female winter athlete in Sochi, started fast to build a lead over the slender Czech woman. With two laps to go, Wüst lost pace and Sábliková regained half a second. The Czech was aiming for a strong finish, but misjudged the crossover and let Wüst cross in front. Sábliková lost at least a second and had to settle for silver again. Neither Olympic bronze winner Olga Graf (RUS) nor the 42-year-old German champion Claudia Pechstein could get below 4:10.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images