Before the start of the 2019 World Allround Speed Skating Championships there were five skaters who were favorite to win medals, with another five outsiders that could end up in between the top five riders. The three main contenders were Ireen Wüst from the Netherlands, Miho Takagi from Japan and Martina Sábliková from the Czech Republic. Wüst had won the World Allround Championships already six time in her career, Sábliková is her main rival throughout her career and won the title four times already. Takagi on the other hand only won it once before, but that was last year making her the defending champion.
Speed skating comes in all sorts of races, most of them are individual, but there are also team events. When it comes to the individual races, you can have world championships in single distances, in a combination of sprint distances, or in a combination of the four most common distances. This last combination is exactly what the Allround Championships are. For the women, this means they start with a race over 500 meters, followed by one of 3000 meters. The next day they start with a race over 1500 meters, whereas the last and final race will be over 5000 meters. For the men, the 3000 meters is replaced with a 5000 meters race, and where the 5000 meters race takes place for women, the men actually have to skate 10000 meters. As the 500 meters takes much less time than the 5000 meters, there are certain rules in place that calculates the time into points, so that every distance counts for 25% of the total amount of points. The one athlete with the most points after four distances is the champion.
The Olympic Oval
One of the fastest, if not the fastest speed skating tracks in the world is Olympic Oval in Calgary. It is the skating rink with the most set world records in history of the sport. Besides a good preparation of the ice, and it being covered, it helps a lot that the stadium is located on a high altitude and for the fact the climate in the facility is controlled by machinery. The Oval was the speed skating venue of the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Besides the three mentioned skaters, also to more Dutch skaters were among the favorites to win a medal. These were Antoinette de Jong and Carlijn Achtereekte. The group of outsiders existed of Isabelle Weidemann, Maryna Zuyeva, Natalia Voronina, Ivanie Blondin and Ida Njåtun.
The first race over 500 meters was the sprint race. Riders like Sábliková and Achtereekte are known to be long distance riders and generally perform worse on the sprint distances. They are expected to lose even a few seconds on the short distance, but are then expected to make up for that on the long distance races, when the sprinters will not stand a chance. The ultimate goal is to be the most constistent racer over de four distances.
As expected Sábliková and Achtereekte weren't part of the top 10 at the end of the race. They both lost more than two seconds to the eventual winner. Nana Takagi, who is Miho's sister was in the lead for a long time, but in the end had to be satisfied with the fourth place. Antoinette de Jong finished third, Ireen Wüst second and Miho Takagi won the race in 37.22 seconds. She was 1.24 seconds faster than Wüst, giving the defending champion a good lead.
The 3000 meters was the first distance for the non-sprinters to shine. Miho Takagi is not a favorite on this distance, but she isn't the worst either at it. Anything below 4 minutes is considered good, and the first one to achieve that was Maryna Zuyeva with 3:59.80 minutes. None of the riders in heat six and seven managed such a time, but in heat eight, it was Ireen Wüst who was just 0.01 faster than Zuyeva. In heat ten it was Miho Takagi's turn, but she had to let her direct opponent Isabelle Weidemann go. Takagi eventually finished in 4:00.16 minutes, but the Canadian skater went fast, taking the lead with 3:58.51 minutes. In the next race it was up to Sábliková and De Jong to give it their best, and that is exactly what they did. The race was very exciting and both were having a great speed throughout the race. Antoinette de Jong would skate faster than Weidemann, finishing in 3:58.25 minutes. Unfortunately for her she had to let Sábliková go in the final laps of the race, but that was not a shame. Sábliková was in top form and skated a new World Record with 3:53.31 minutes. As a result she also took the overall lead after two distances. Natalia Voronina (5th) and Carlijn Achtereekte (4th) both finished below 4 minutes in the last race of the event, finishing ahead of Wüst, Zuyeva and Takagi.
Back to the domain of the sprinters, even though the second sprint distance regularly goes over 1000 meters rather than 1500. The 1500 meters normally is the bridge between the sprint distances and the long distances. With the 1000 meters not present at this world championship, you can say the long distance skaters are slight favorites in general, but most sprinters are still able to keep some speed towards the finish of the 1500 meters, whereas the long distance racers are having more trouble going faster than they do in their long distance races, where they would need to divide their energy over more laps. Evgeniia Lalenkova was the first one to set a decent time with 1:55.09 minutes. Only the top skaters in the last three races of the event were able to get faster than that. Too bad for Lalenkova, all six riders did that. Antoinette de Jong finished in 6th place, whereas the 5th place was for Carlijn Achtereekte. Martina Sábliková did really well on this short distance for her standards. Her 4th place was pretty decent in her aim to become world champion for the fifth time in her career. Ivanie Blondin finished in 3rd and Ireen Wüst in 2nd place. The winner of the distance was Miho Takagi, who won her second distance in two days, and with this win, she retook the lead in the overall rankings.
The final distance is the main distance for these world championships. Most skaters hate it, some of them are very good at it. Only the top 8 skaters after three distances qualify for the final race. Maryna Zuyeva and Natalia Voronina skated well in the first heat, but weren't candidates to win any medals anymore. Carlijn Achtereekte in the second race was still a medal contender, whereas her opponent Isabelle Weidemann did not have a chance to win a medal anymore. Weidemann won the race however in a great time of 6:49.68 minutes. Carlijn Achtereekte finished less than a second later, but both were a lot faster than Zuyeva. In the next race Antoinette de Jong had to race against Martina Sábliková again. Just like on the 3000 meters race, De Jong kept up with Sábliková really well, but in the end she had to let her go. De Jong finished seven seconds slower than Weidemann, and six seconds slower than Achtereekte, but that was just enough to stay in the lead after four distances. Well, she would have been in the lead, if Sábliková wouldn't have been there. The Czech lady did it for the second day in a row, and skated yet another World Record, this time over 5000 meters in 6:42.01 minutes.
Now it was up to Miho Takagi not too lose too much time, so that she could stay ahead of Sábliková after four races. If she would lose with less than 20 seconds difference, Takagi would retain her title, but the Japanese lost 0.70 seconds too much and had to settle with silver. Ireen Wüst's time was not enough to win the bronze medal, which went to Antoinette de Jong.