Preview: Long Track Speed Skating

Late last week the long track speed skating teams of each country were named finally giving us a sense of the competition field. Speed skating is one of the events that I have followed since the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan and the sport is usually dominated by skaters from the United States, Canada, Netherlands, Japan, and Germany. That isn’t likely to change but since the games are being held in Russia, the host nation may have a chance to reel in some medals.

Below is my rundown of who I think will win medals in each event as well as some potential dark horses.

Men’s 500m

The men’s 500m has recently been dominated by skaters from South Korea and Japan. In Vancouver, Mo Tae-bum, Keiichiro Nagashima, and Joji Kato took the gold, silver, and bronze respectively. This year it’s no surprise that these three skaters are the favorites to medal. However, this ISU World Cup season has seen the emergence of the Mulder brothers from the Netherlands and Zbigniw Brodka of Poland. All three also capable of taking medals. Russia’s Aleksei Yesin and Dmitri Lobkov are potential dark horses and with the competition being held on their home ice, one of them could very well medal.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Mo Tae-bum
Silver Medal: Ronald Mulder
Bronze Medal: Michael Mulder

Men’s 1000m

This event tends to have a greater degree of diversity when it comes to potential medalists. America’s Shani Davis is the current record holder and as also the two time defending Olympic medalist, he is surely the favorite to defend his medal. Potential medalists also include Dutchmen Michael Mulder and Kjeld Nuis. Kjeld is the defending silver medalist in the World Single Distance Championships while Mulder is a two time World Sprint Champion has ranked just below Davis in the ISU World Cup his season. 2012 World Sprint Champion Stefan Groothuis could also contend as will Kazakhstan’s Denis Kuzin.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Shani Davis
Silver Medal: Michael Mulder
Bronze Medal: Denis Kuzin

Men’s 1500m

Shani Davis is the defending silver medalist, current record holder, and is a heavy favorite to potentially win this distance as well. Current defending Olympic champion Mark Tuitert, will be skating in Sochi but his results since the Vancouver Games have been dismal and it is hard to see him as a potential favorite. Another contender is Koen Verweij who won the first World Cup tournament and is currently ranked second at this very distance. His compatriot Kjeld Nuis is also potential contender, but much like Davis he specialises in the 1000m. Norway’s Håvard Bøkko who took the bronze four years ago, could very well challenge for the silver or bronze, but he does not seem to have a strong season this year. The clear dark horse is Russia’s Denise Yuskov who, will be skating on home ice, won a World Cup title this season and is the reigning Single Distance champion.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Shani Davis
Silver Medal: Denis Yuskov
Bronze Medal: Koen Verweij

Men’s 5000m

The Netherlands’ strongest presence lies in the long distances. Sven Kramer is the ultimate favorite in the 5000m, being current record holder and won the gold in Vancouver, he has dominated the distance in all the seasons since then. His compatriots Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma are also major contenders and could contribute to a Dutch sweep of the event. 2006 gold medalist and long distance specialist Bob de Jong will not be participating in this distance. Other major contenders include Lee Seung-hoon of Korea and Ivan Skobrev of Russia. Both finished second and third respectively in Vancouver and have shown some potential since then. Lee has shown consistency in distance while Skobrev was European and World Champion in 2011. Belgium’s Bart Swings is a dark horse who emerged on the scene in 2011 and has since excelled in the 5000m as well as Russia’s Denis Yuskov and Germany’s Patrick Beckert.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Sven Kramer
Silver Medal: Jan Blokuijsen
Bronze Medal: Jorrit Bergsma

Men’s 10000m

The Dutch domination of this event is heavily favored to continue with the longest distance in the men’s program. Sven Kramer, who is also the current record holder at this distance, was on pace to nearly win this event in Vancouver only to be disqualified for failure to change lanes. Since then he had dominated this distance much like the 5000m. His compatriot Bob de Jong is the 2006 gold medalist in this distance and will be competing with Kramer for the gold. Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma could also contribute to a second potential Dutch sweep. Aside from the Dutch, Belgium’s Bart Swings has also excelled at this distance and is a heavy favorite for one of the medals. Lee Seung-hoon, who won the gold in Vancouver thanks to Kramer’s mistake, seems to the more focused on the 5000m but should still be considered a medal contender. Russia’s Ivan Skobrev won silver in Vancouver is the host nation’s biggest hope having placed in the top five at this distance in three of the last World Championships. Potential dark horses include Norway’s Håvard Bøkko, who is a silver medalist at this distance in the World Single Distance Championships and France’s Alexis Contin who is currently behind Kramer in this season’s ISU World Cup.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Sven Kramer
Silver Medal: Bob De Jong
Bronze Medal: Ivan Skobrev

Women’s 500m

The women’s sprint distances have a much larger diversity pool when it comes to potential medalists. This year the event has been dominated by Lee Swang-hwa in the World Cup competition winning seven of a possible eight races. Behind her Germany’s Jenny Wolf, USA’s Heather Richardson, China’s Wang Beixing, and Russia’s Olga Fatkulina have all ranked consistently in the top three. Of the four skaters, Richardson is a former sprint champion while Wolf is only a whisker behind Lee in the World Cup. China could prove to be very fierce competitors with Wang Beixing and Yu Jing having dominated the Spring Championships this year.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Lee Swang-hwa
Silver Medal: Jenny Wolf
Bronze Medal: Olga Fatkulina

Women’s 1000m

US women’s hopes at a gold will lie in the 1000m this year with Heather Richardson, who has been the most consistent at this distance. She and her compatriot Brittany Bowe have won seven out of a possible twelve 1000m World Cup medals this year and are definitely favorites for the top two spots. Competing against them is Russia’s Olga Fatkulina who already has two World Cup bronze medals this season. She is likely to be the host nation’s only medal hope in the women’s section. Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands may also feature, but since he specializes in longer distances, she may not be at the top of the standings.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Heather Richardson
Silver Medal: Olga Fatkulina
Bronze Medal: Brittany Bowe

Women’s 1500m

Much like the men’s long track team, the Dutch women dominate the middle distances. In the current generation, that honor goes to Ireen Wüst who is a heavy medal favorite in the 1500m. At just 27, she is competing in her third Olympics and already has three medals to her name. Providing her with stiff competition are Americans Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe. Of the two, Brittany Bowe has a World Cup victory this season and is ranked just below Wüst this season. Other potential medalists include Canada’s Brittany Schussler and veteran Christine Nesbit as well as Germany’s Jenny Wolf.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Ireen Wüst
Silver Medal: Heather Richardson
Bronze Medal: Jenny Wolf

Women’s 3000m

The long distances in the the women’s program will see the return of German legendary skater Claudia Pechstein. She has an Olympic history stretching back to the 1992 Olympics which includes five gold, two silver, and two bronze medals at the 3000m and 5000m distances. Doping allegations caused her to miss the Vancouver Games through suspension. Despite her age, she is considered a major contender and possibly even a favorite for the 3000m but her challenger, Martina Sáblíková is the reigning gold medalist and has been in incredible form since 2010. Adding to her three medals in Vancouver, Sáblíková was the champion at this distance in 2012 and was All Around Champion. Other potential contenders include Netherlands’ Antoinette de Jong, who is currently ranked third in the ISU World Cup in this distance and her compatriot, the highly decorated Ireen Wüst who is also the reigning single distance champion.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Martina Sáblíková
Silver Medal: Claudia Pechstein
Bronze Medal: Antoinette de Jong

Women’s 5000m

The longest distance in the women’s is traditionally dominated by the highly decorated German team. Claudia Pechstein’s return is a definite boost for the team. She has a three gold medal streak spanning from the 1994 to 2002 Games in this distance alone. But since she missed the 2010 Games, the event has since been dominated by Martina Sáblíková will be skating as the defending defending champion and is the heavy favorite. That is not to say Pechstein can not win, she is a more than capable competitor for the gold was well. One of the other medals could go to 22 year old Yvonne Nauta. She created a significant surprise earlier this year by winning the silver medal at the European Allround Championships and a bronze in the only 5000m race in the ISU World Cup.

Prediction
Gold Medal: Martina Sáblíková
Silver Medal: Claudia Pechstein
Bronze Medal: Yvonne Nauta

One thought on “Preview: Long Track Speed Skating

  1. Pingback: Rundown Day 2: February 8 | Snow of Sochi

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