Hughes & Groves Skate Well at Heerenveen World Cup

Spectators were ecstatic about local skater Renate Groenewold who went on to win gold, but Clara Hughes (Winnipeg, MB) wasn’t intimidated and skated to a 6th place finish in the 3000m race, 2.52 seconds behind the gold medallist. Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) finished 7th, just behind her teammate.

Hughes, a specialist in the 5000m, is progressing well this year. She was 10th in the 3000m in Berlin last weekend, and she shaved almost 4 seconds off her time.

“I’m really happy with my race today, I felt good and it’s a great improvement from last weekend”, said Clara Hughes after her race. “I don’t look so much at the results from a race, but at how it felt, and I had good technical improvements this week, it’s a step forward, and hopefully I can have another step forward next week when I race the 5000m in Moscow. I feel like I’m just starting to build into my racing, after spending a lot of time in Beijing last summer I had to take a step back in training, but I feel great now.” (Hughes was an analyst for CBC at the Olympics this summer for cycling so she spent most of August in China.)

Groves had to deal with some bad luck. She was racing well when her pair, Japanese skater Masako Hozumi, passed her on the cross over when Groves should have had priority as she was in the outer lane. Hozumi was disqualified for the manoeuver, but this added precious hundredths of a second to Groves’ time. The other Canadians on the distance, Christine Nesbitt (London, ON) and Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB) took 11th and 12th place. Nicole Garrido (Edmonton, AB) was 10th in the B group.

In the 1500m, young Lucas Makowsky (Regina, SK), in his second season representing Canada on the World Cup circuit, had the best Canadian performance with 14th place. François-Olivier Roberge (St-Nicolas, QC) was 15th and Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) who slipped slightly in the middle of his race had to settle for 19th place. Morrison’s long time rival, American Shani Davis, took gold, in front of two athletes from the Netherlands: Stefan Groothuis and Mark Tuitert. In the B group, Steven Elm (Red Deer, AB) took 4th place and Jeff Kitura (Langley, BC) was 10th.

“I skated a lot better technically than last weekend”, said Makowsky. “So I was really happy with that. I had a bit of a crossover problem in the 1st lap, which made me lose some speed, but I’m glad I skated better technically, it showed some improvement. My race was smoother, more fluid than last week. I still have a lot to learn from today’s race. I want to build off last week for tomorrow’s 5000m race, I’m hoping to get into a good rhythm early on in the race.”

With Jeremy Wotherspoon (Red Deer, AB) and Mike Ireland (Winnipeg, MB) missing, both injured last weekend, Vincent Labrie (St-Romuald, QC) was the only Canadian athlete in the A group of the 500m. Labrie finished 14th. In the B Division, Muncef Ouardi (Montreal, QC), had once again a good race, taking 5th place. His teammates Denny Morrison, François-Olivier Roberge and Philippe Riopel (Lachenaie, QC) came in 11th, 12th and 13th respectively.

In the women 500m, German skater Jenny Wolf took gold for the second time in three races this season, and Chinese Beixing Wang, who won the other 500m last weekend, took silver. Christine Nesbitt (London, ON) was 11th and Shannon Rempel was 13th. In the B group, Canadians Tamara Oudenaarden (St-Albert, AB), Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB) and Kerry Dankers (Melville, SK) finished 15th, 16th and 20th.

Competition continues tomorrow with the A group races starting at 1:15 local in the 500m both men and women, 1500m women and 5000m men. Races can be watched live on the Internet at mms://straumV.nrk.no/nrk_tv_webvid04_h.