Kai Verbij won the first two editions of the European Championship sprint and went three in a row in Heerenveen this weekend, but his title aspirations were already over after five seconds on Saturday.
Shortly after he thought that he had started very well on his first 500 meters in Thialf, Verbij slid over the start-finish on his seat. He first got into the ice with the tip of his left skate, immediately after that with the tip of his right skate and then there was no stopping it.
“This is pure bad luck”, says Verbij. “Maybe I took a little too much risk, but that’s part of sprinting. I’ve seen the best fall. It doesn’t happen very often to me, so it’s a shame that it happens at such an important time.”
The driver of Jumbo-Visma was previously considered the biggest contender for gold. The European Sprint Championship has only existed since 2017 and Verbij won both editions. “I really wanted to remain the only European sprint champion,” he said. “It is very disappointing that my tournament was over after 50 meters.”
After his 500 meters, the native South Hollander sat for minutes with bowed head on the pillows next to the track. “It was a bit difficult to quickly process that disappointment. But I can only be angry with myself.”
An hour after his fall, Verbij still finished second in the 1,000 meters, just under seven tenths behind winner Thomas Krol. “I wanted to prove that I could have competed for the title. But all the tension was gone, it felt like a ride for bacon and beans. Now I will focus everything on the World Championship distances (11-14 February, ed.) , then I just have to perform there. “
Kai Verbij slides disillusioned over the ice.
Leader Krol cursed after Verbij’s fall
Krol benefited from the setback at Verbij, because the former world champion in the 1,500 meters is in the lead halfway through the European Championship with a nice lead on number two Hein Otterspeer.
“But I find it very annoying that Kai has fallen”, said Krol. “He is my teammate, my best buddy and I would have loved to compete with him for the gold. I saw him fall on a TV in the tunnel under the track and then I just sweared and ranted.”
Jac Orie’s pupil was of course satisfied with his own performance in Thialf. He clocked a personal record in the 500 meters with 34.90 and stayed in the 1,000 meters with 1.07.49 but four tenths above the track record of the Russian Pavel Kulizhnikov.
“I had absolutely not expected that I would be first after two distances”, said Krol, who mainly focuses on the 1,000 and 1,500 meters and is not a big fan of the 500 meters. “I was helped a bit by Kai, but I also had a great day myself. I can certainly become champion because of that, but I shouldn’t think about that too much. Everything will start again tomorrow.”
The final day of the European Championship sprint starts on Sunday at 3.30 pm. The last day of the European Allround Championship starts four hours earlier.
Source: NU by www.nu.nl.
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