Fri, 05 Mar 2021

THE HAGUE, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Netherlands and Canada split the men's and women's team pursuit golds at the 2020-21 season ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Heerenveen, the Netherlands on Friday.

Veteran captain Sven Kramer led home skaters Chris Huizinga and Beau Snellink past Olympic champions Norway by more than a second to win the men's event in three minutes and 40.332 seconds. Norway clocked 3:41.628 to finish second with Canada only 0.08 seconds behind in third.

"A very good result in the first World Cup," Kramer said. "It was the first time we skated in this line-up."

In the women's action, Canada surprisingly beat the Netherlands to claim the gold. Ivanie Blondin, Valerie Maltais, and Isabelle Weidemann recorded the second-fastest time ever at Thialf Stadium in 2 minutes and 56.71 seconds, edging the Dutch team to second place in 2:57.04. Norway took the bronze medal in 2:59.25.

"We're all very surprised for sure," Weidemann said with a big smile after the race.

Like so many others around the globe, the Canadian skaters couldn't train together in the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were prevented from getting back to the ice as quickly as they had wished by mechanical troubles at the Calgary Olympic Oval.

"Obviously we haven't had a lot of time on the ice," Weidemann said. "We did some training camps at different places, also on natural ice in Red Deer. It was freezing cold, but we were looking at every opportunity we had to put on our skates and get on the ice. But really, the most training we've done is the past week-and-a-half right here."

The first leg of the 2020-21 season will continue on Saturday with six golds on offer.

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