Kristina Groves & Clara Hughes in top-10 at speed skating World Cup

Kristina Groves of Ottawa and Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., finished eighth and ninth respectively on Saturday in the women’s 5,000 metres at the third stop on the long track speed skating World Cup circuit.

Gretha Smit of the Netherlands surprised the field with the gold medal despite suffering from the flu clocking seven minutes and 05.11 seconds. Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein of Germany was second in 7:05.77 and her compatriot Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann, a nine-time world champion on the comeback trail after a maternity leave, took the bronze in 7:06.90.

Groves posted her third top-10 finish this season clocking eighth in 7:15.68 while Hughes equalled her best showing of the campaign finishing ninth in 7:15.90.

“There was some good points in the race but I definitely need to work on my last two laps,” said Groves, fourth overall at the world championships last year. “It was one of the hardest 5,000’s I’ve ever done. The ice was soft so it required additional effort. I was really hurting at the end.”

“I’m happy with the way it went,” added Hughes, an Olympic bronze medallist in the event. “It’s a good sign of things to come. Our program this year is geared towards peaking in February and March.”

Tara Risling of Medicine Hat, Alta., was 27th and Tiffany Hughes of Kingston, Ont., 30th.

In the men’s 1,500, Yevgeny Lalenkov of Russia took the gold in 1:47.56 to beat out four Dutchmen who followed in the standings. World Cup leader Mark Tuitert was second in 1:47.84 and Ids Postma of the Netherlands third in 1:48.42.

Jay Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was 14th, his best result this season, and Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., 18th. In the B group race, Jason Parker of Yorkton, Sask., was 12th, Philippe Marois of Charlesbourg, Que., 18th and Jeff Kitura of Langley, B.C., 25th.

Competition ends Sunday.