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Shinno puts exclamation point on Japan long track dominance

Winter Games 20 January 2023

The long track speed skating competition concluded Friday at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games with the women’s and men’s mass start races, won by Japan’s Misaki Shinno and Canadian David La Rue, respectively.

Twenty-four female competitors, then 25 men took the ice at the same time for a 16-lap race totaling 6,400 metres.

The fourth, eighth, 12th and final laps are known as “sprints” in which skaters get to the finish line as fast as they can, earning ranking points for non-podium finishers.

Natalia Jabrzyk of Poland dominated the early stages of the women’s race, rivaled by Zuzana Kuršová of the Czech Republic. In the third sprint, Rose-Anne Grenier of Canada jumped from 13th to fifth.

It looked at that moment like Grenier would probably go home with the gold, but eventual winner Shinno had her own jump from 11th in the third sprint to just slimly bypassing Grenier at the end.

“Mass races are very dangerous because of contact and shared position, so we were careful with our pace,” Shinno said on her strategy. “It was also important to cooperate with my teammate (Yuka Takahashi).”

In the men’s race, the early leader was Pole Karol Karczewski, who won the opening sprint. Italian Daniele di Steffano, who won silver in the 5000m earlier in the week, kept a solid second or third position in the group while teammate Riccardo Lorello led. La Rue came ahead after the last sprint, while his teammate and eventual bronze medallist Hubert Marcotte did so a lap later.

“At the end of the race, I didn’t know,” LaRue remarked. “I knew it was pretty close, but I didn’t know until the end and when I crossed the line, I was just overwhelmed with happiness for my race. But then Hubert came to congratulate me and told me he was third, and I was like, ‘Let’s go!’”

Also reaching the women’s podium, in third place, was Josephine Heimerl, who claimed silver at last year’s FISU World University Championships at the Lake Placid Oval.

“I have really good memories of finishing second in this race in 2022 here in Lake Placid,” the German said. “The field was stronger this year with more competitors. A skater never knows what is going to happen during the race, like crashing. I’m happy I was able to use my strength and endurance, and finish on the podium once again.”

Over six days of long track speed skating at Lake Placid 2023, Japan dominated the overall and gold-medal standings with five gold, six silver and three bronze. South Korea finished second with nine medals (4-3-2).

Written by Christopher Benitez Cuartas, FISU Young Reporter

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