Verbij starts European speed skating title defence in perfect fashion
Defending European sprint champion Kai Verbij started his title defence in perfect fashion by battling to back-to-back victories in the opening two races in Collalbo, Italy.
The 2017 world champion held off the challenge of 22-year-old Norwegian Henrik Fagerli Rukke in the 500m competition to keep his title ambitions on track.
The Dutchman glided across the line in 35.232 seconds to edge out Rukke by 0.13 seconds, while double Olympic champion Kjeld Nuis mustered a third-place finish.
And the 24-year-old continued his destructive form by smashing the outdoor Ritten Arena track record on the way to topping the standings in the 1000m.
Verbij shot across the line in 1:08.970 to edge out second-placed Victor Lobas by 0.83 seconds.
Elsewhere, Olympic double medallist Antoinette de Jong put herself in prime position to claim a first European title of her career by coming out on top in the women's Allround 500m and 3000m events.
The PyeongChang team pursuit silver medallist edged out Russian Elizaveta Kazelina by 0.09 seconds with a personal best time of 39.194 in the 500m sprint competition.
And the Dutch athlete continued her hot streak by getting the better of 31-year-old Czech athlete Martina Sáblíková by 0.15 seconds in the 3000m discipline – crossing the finish line in 4:08.075.