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Dai Dai N'tab and Thomas Krol started the World Cup series at Thialf on a high note by winning a gold medal on Saturday. The two speed skaters of Team Jumbo-Visma were the fastest in the men's 500- and 1,500-meter races. Patrick Roest (silver/1,500m) and Antoinette de Jong (bronze/1,500m) also took home a medal.
N'tab set a time of 34.55 in the men's first 500-meter race, finishing just ahead of Canadian Laurent Dubreuil, who took home silver in 34.65. Ruslan Murashov (34.66) ended up in third place, while Team Jumbo-Visma speed skater Hein Otterspeer had to settle for seventh place: 34.77. Just like last week, Kai Verbij did not finish after falling in the first part of the race.
The 26-year-old speed skater of Team Jumbo-Visma won his fourth World Cup race of his career. It was also his first gold medal in the World Cup since early 2017. On March 11th and 12th of that year, N'tab won both the first and second 500-meter race in Stavanger, Norway: 34.93 and 34.72.
"It was an emotional moment for me after the race", N'tab admitted. "A lot has happened the last couple of years, so it feels so good to be back in first place at an international competition. Normally, I am not an emotional person, but after my race I started to realize: I have worked so hard to get back to this level. I am so happy with this gold medal."
"I am not really satisfied with my time of 34.55. I think I can still skate much faster than this. I lost way too much time at the start. This time, my opener was 9.7 seconds, while I have already skated a 9.5 opener this season. That is something I need to improve in the next couple of weeks. The World Single Distance Championships is the most important tournament this year, in which it really has to happen. However, this already gives a lot of confidence."
Earlier on Saturday, Krol was really impressive in the men's 1,500-meter race. The reign European sprint champion set the second fastest time ever at Thialf, Heerenveen: 1:43.24 (Kjeld Nuis' track record is 1:43.00). Teammate Roest, who was in the same pairing as Krol on Saturday, seized silver in 1:44.45. Nuis (1:44.66), Wesly Dijs (1:44.68) and Louis Hollaar (1:45.07) (all Dutch) finished third, fourth and fifth.
"I am very satisfied with my time", Krol said. "I really liked the battle between the European sprint and allround champion today. Since I skated against Roest, I really had to start my race fast. Fortunately, I was able to stay ahead during the entire race. It was not flawless, I had some small mistakes. That is one of the reasons I was not able to skate the track record, but that is okay for now. I need to be at my best at the World Single Distance Championships."
Roest spoke of an "ok race" afterwards. "Krol skated a really fast 1,500m and I was not able to keep up with him today. I gave everything I got, but it was not enough to take gold. My laps were flat, so that is a good thing. However, I should have started my race faster to be able to compete for gold. That is what I managed to do at the qualification tournament in December. It feels good to be the best of the rest, but I rather compete for the win. Fortunately, there is still time to improve."
In the ladies' competition, De Jong seized bronze in the 1,500m. The 25-year-old speed skater of Team Jumbo-Visma set a time of 1:54.71, finishing behind Ireen Wüst (1:54.57) and winner Brittany Bowe (1:53.88).
"I can be happy with the outcome of this race", De Jong said. "All season I have shown great form. Once again, I was able to skate a time of 1:54 at Thialf. It feels great to be fast every single weekend. Unfortunately, my race did not go that well today, especially technically, so is great to still have a couple of weeks to improve. I hope to be at my best at the World Single Distance Championships next month."