Lorentzen off the mark with impressive speed skating World Cup opener
Havard Holmefjord Lorentzen's wait for a speed skating World Cup title is finally over after hitting top spot in the season curtain-raiser in Heerenveen.
The Norwegian sprinter pulled out all the stops to halt the clock in a time of 34.69s in the men's 500m, just 0.09s ahead of second-placed Nico Ihle of Germany.
Third place in the Netherlands went to Kai Verbij, the home favourite, just 0.06s further back while none of the last six racers were able to eclipse Lorentzen's effort.
"I had hoped for the podium," he admitted. "I improved a lot last year and kept building on that.
"My training races in Stavanger were fast but the conditions were not as good as here in Heerenveen, so I expected a fast race, but I did not expect to win the first race of the season."
Elsewhere there was not only a gold medal but a world record for the Japanese women's team pursuit squad, crossing the line in a time of 2:55.77 against the Dutch.
That saw Nana Takagi, Miho Takagi and Ayano Sato beat Canada's 2009 world record by just 0.02s, the same team who picked up bronze this time around.
More than three seconds separated the top two sides but, according to Japan coach Johan de Wit, a result like this was always in the offing.
"We expected a time around 2:57," the Dutch-born coach said.
"But this doesn't come out of the blue. We have won the World Cup two years in a row and we improve every year.
"Our big advantage is that we can always train as a team. We invested a lot of time."
While China's win was expected, Korea's came as a surprise even to themselves in the men's team pursuit, beating Norway and New Zealand to top spot on the podium.
There was another maiden win in the women's 500m, where Nao Kodaira maintained her fine form of seasons past to cruise home ahead of the rest of the field.
Her time of 37.29s was a cut above, with the Japanese world champion comfortably holding off the challenge of second-placed Lee Sang-Hwa.