Shaoang Liu wins first race of the season

Credit: ISU

Shaoang Liu wins first race of the season

Hungary's Shaoang Liu won his first World Cup race of the season in the final Men’s individual event in Dordrecht on Sunday to reassert himself as one of the medal favorites for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. But there was to be no individual gold on the Women’s side for favorite Suzanne Schulting (NED), as Korea’s Choi Minjeong took home the 1000m title.

After a quiet World Cup campaign that had produced only one individual podium before Sunday, Liu led from the start in the 1000m in a clinical display that will give the 500m World Champion a timely confidence boost in the lead-up to Beijing.

With teammate John-Henry Krueger holding off the pack behind him, Liu controlled the race and was never seriously threatened. Krueger won silver and Italy's Pietro Sighel claimed bronze.

"It's always easier when you can skate with your teammate," said Liu's brother Shaolin Sandor Liu, who went out in the quarter finals.

"I was next to the ice so I was cheering for him (Shaoang). I'm really glad for him and it was a big relief for him too."

In the Men's 5000m Relay, Canada looked set for their third consecutive World Cup gold until Korea's Kwak Yoon-Gy executed a stunning overtaking move on the inside of the final turn.

Kwak and Canada's Steven Dubois lunged for the finish line with Korea winning by 2.3 hundredths of a second.

The Liu brothers and Krueger helped Hungary win bronze.

"It's a huge relief and I'm really happy to be done with it (the World Cup season)," said Shaolin Sandor Liu. "We got the (Olympic) spots we wanted and we are really happy."

Choi claims last individual victory

Choi Minjeong, the Olympic 1500m Champion, went one better than her 1000m silver in Debrecen and left Suzanne Schulting to settle for third in the final individual Women’s event of the World Cup season.

In a back-and-forth race that featured lead changes on virtually every turn, Canadians Kim Boutin and Courtney Sarault skated together from the front in the early stages as Choi kept in touch.

Late in the race, Choi mastered the frenetic pace, working her way to the front and holding on to win, with Boutin adding silver to Saturday's 500m gold.

"She (Choi) did a great job and she was in the right place at the right moment," Schulting said.

Poland's Natalia Maliszewska passed Sarault on the inside late in the race and crossed the line in third place, but she was penalized for the manoeuver, allowing Olympic and World Champion Schulting to claim bronze.

"It was really tough racing," said Schulting, who conceded she was tired after skating nearly 40 races on consecutive weekends.

"It's not only just the legs but it's also mentally tough because you have to reload yourself every time."

The Dutch star bounced back from her individual disappointments, however, to claim double relay gold in the final races on Sunday.

In the Women's 3000m Relay, Schulting anchored the Netherlands team that took the lead from Canada with 11 laps remaining and were never bested thereafter.

"It was really amazing, I'm really proud of the team," Schulting said.

Canada won silver while Italy were awarded bronze after Korea, who crossed the line third, were penalized.

In an exciting Mixed Team Relay final, Netherlands pipped Hungary for gold as Dutch anchor Jens van 't Wout crossed the line 3.5 hundredths of a second ahead of Shaolin Sandor Liu.

Overall World Cup season Champions China claimed bronze.