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27 March 2018 | in Speed Skating, FISU World University Championships

Belarus crowds on their feet for the final day of WUC Speed Skating

The loud rumble of “Be-la-rus!”, “Be-la-rus!” rang around the stadium from the tribune seats during Ignat Golovatsiuk’s third and final performance – a defining moment from the fourth edition of this championship

MINSK – On the fourth and final day at the FISU World University Speed Skating Championship Japan’s Rio Yamada emerged victorious in the Women’s 1500 M as the 20-year old Olympian won her third WUC medal and second gold in as many days at the Minsk Arena in recording a time of 2:02.05.


Elena Eranina from Russia took the second place with the result of 2:04.00 while Paulien Verhaar of Holland took the bronze medal in 2:05.52. The speed skating oval in the Belarusian capital has been a successful venue for more than Ms. Yamada: this was the fourth medal for Paulien Verhaar and Elena Eranina.

 Golden girl Rio Yamada of Japan (centre) with Elena Eranina of Russia (left) and Paulien Verhaar of the Netherlands (right) on the podium for the Women's 1500 M

After Ms. Yamada’s finish, her sights were more set on the upcoming Men’s 1500 race with the mid-distance Long Track Speed Skating star saying, “Now the 1500 metre men’s race starts. I support Aliaksei Kirpichnik from your country. I think he has a chance.”


Alas, it wasn’t Aliaksei’s podium day as the Belarusian was the best of the host country in the event, but finished 13th on the day. It was, however, another fine showing by the university men of Kazakhstan as they won two medals: one gold and one bronze.

The victor was Arzhanikov Ivan (1:49.23), with Lobas Viktor of Russia finishing in second place with a time of 1:50.02. Gavrilov Demyan finished in third in a time of 1:50.77.

 Ivan Arzhanikov of Kazakhstan during his golden performance in the Men's 1500 M event

“I’m really proud of my start, today I set my personal record, the golden boy Arzhanokov said. “The race was quite tough as the speed skaters were very strong, for example, the Italians. Actually, they were my main opponents. I’m very satisfied with my teammate Gavrilov Demyan. He has set his personal record here, on the Minsk Arena ice, too. You have a unique and fantastic atmosphere, all the tribunes are full of audience, the fans are very active, and finally your mascot is really cool.”


You got to love it when the athletes are giving shout outs to the mascots.

 Magdalena Czyszczon of Poland en route to another winning performance on the distance side of the Long Track Speed Skating game

In the Women’s Mass Start, Magdalena Czyszczon of Poland took her next gold medal with the result of 9:42.72 (61 points).


“It was unbelievable,” Czyszczon said. “I can’t believe that it happened. I am very happy that I gained three gold medals. I like Minsk and the Minsk Arena very much, it’s beautiful here.”


Gloria Malfatti of Italy came the second with a result of 9:42.79 (45 points). Poland doubled up on the podium as Wojcik Andzelika finished third with the result of 9:45.13 (23 points).

 The Women's Mass Start podium: Magdelena Czyszczon (centre) of Poland with the gold, Gloria Malfatti (left) with the silver, and Andzelika Wojcik (right) of Poland with the bronze

If there was ever a race to conclude the fourth edition of WUC Speed Skating, it was the Men’s 1500 M. Two previous times the host nation had a contender for the gold: Ignat Golovatsiuk. Two previous times Mr. Golovatsiuk was bested by the Japanese sprint ace Tatsuya Shinhama, in the 500 M and 1,000 M race distances.


The day before, Golovatsiuk sounded crushed in the mixed zone after his 1,000 M performance that left him just 7/100ths of second behind his Japanese rival in second place. Meanwhile, Mr. Shinhama said he was “over the moon” with emotion from his two golden performances in Minsk.


As Golovatsiuk took to the ice, the fans in the tribunes knew what was at stake as they started with a low rumble shout of “Be-la-rus!” that became a quake of noise and excitement as the Belarusian brought home the first gold medal of the championships to Belarus. Marcin Bachanek from Poland took the silver and Jeroen Janissen of the Netherlands earned bronze.


“I was a little worried as I promised myself to finish the season on a major note, with a gold medal – and I managed to do it, a smiling Golovatsiuk said. “Now I’m planning to relax as I need energy to start next season. My goal now is the World Cup.”

 Ignat Golovatsiuk soaking in the moment—and the emotion—after his performance in the Men's 1500 M competition

With this storybook ending, now is the time to say goodbye to the FISU World University Speed Skating Championship in Minsk. The event’s fifth edition comes in two year’s time during the 2020 WUC season. While the appreciative atmosphere within Minsk Arena was one to remember, and one hard to top, if there’s one place to carry the FISU flag for next edition it's the Netherlands.


As the temperaturs drop, the Dutch start dreaming of another frozen winter and the prospect of ice skating outdoors. In 2020, university athletes will compete on another ice oval full of history, the open air of the Olympic Stadium of Amsterdam.


The Amsterdam event will truly be a students championship, with the whole event being run from their (winning) bid phase to event management execution by university students. From Minsk, FISU gives an appreciative goodbye with an eye to a sure-to-be spectacular WUC Speed Skating in Amsterdam.

Dutch speed skater Paulien Verhaar and her country mates will welcome the world's best university speed skaters to the Olympic Stadium of Amsterdam for the fifth WUC Speed Skating in 2020