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Gao moves up the gears to grab World Cup gold

China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-12 09:18
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China's Gao Tingyu poses on the podium with his 500m gold medal, flanked by silver medalist Laurent Dubreuil of Canada and bronze medalist Wataru Morishige of Japan at the ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland, on Saturday. GETTY IMAGES

Gao Tingyu claimed his first gold medal since Beijing 2022 with a blistering performance in Saturday's 500m race at the ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland.

The reigning Olympic champion added a silver in Sunday's 500m after being edged to victory by Laurent Dubreuil of Canada.

After winning China's first Olympic gold in men's speed skating on home ice, Gao took a yearlong break from competition to allow a persistent lower-back problem to heal.

He returned to competition last month at the Beijing World Cup leg, where he finished fourth in the 500m. However, Saturday's triumph showed he is back up to top speed as he ended Japanese skater Wataru Morishige's four-race win streak in convincing style.

"Time is the best solution for everything, because it brings new hope. I'm so grateful for my daily life and training, even when it's not so exciting, and I'm also grateful for all the new challenges. I am who I am, and more importantly, I am what my team is. So see you at the next stop of the series," Gao wrote on his personal social media account on Monday.

On Saturday, Gao stormed into the lead with a 9.43-second opening 100 meters and followed that up with a lap of 25.2 sec to finish in 34.70. Dubreuil was just 0.07 behind in second, with Morishige having to settle for third, a further 0.05 back.

Speaking after Saturday's race, Dubreuil marveled at Gao's speed over the opening 100m and his subsequent endurance over the remainder of the race.

"His start is incredible… Ten years ago, when I started skating internationally, some of the guys who opened 9.4 would not have the best of laps. You could always try to catch up in the lap, but his (Gao's) is so good. He looks really tired in the end but he's still going fast.

"It's hard to beat somebody with such a fast opener and a good lap to go with it," added the Canadian.

"Over the season, Morishige is the best by far — six races, six medals and four golds. But the 500m is what it is — even though somebody is the big favorite, there's always a chance to beat him."

At November's Beijing World Cup event, Gao clocked 34.79, 0.06 behind Dubreuil, who won 1,000m silver at Beijing 2022.

The pair's intriguing rivalry resumed on Sunday when Dubreuil won in 34.73, with Gao crossing the finish line in 34.79. Poland's Damian Zurek was third in 34.87.

Dubreuil admitted he was delighted to reverse Saturday's result.

"He (Gao) is a formidable skater. I'm happy I got to beat him today. I'm excited to race against him after Christmas again," Dubreuil said on Sunday.

"The level in the 500m is incredible. We're welcoming back Gao on the circuit. He's the Olympic champion. He's got the fastest start of all time, and I like to skate against the best skaters in the world.

"Last year I was at my best and I regretted that I didn't get to skate against him. This year I have the chance to do it and today I was able to beat him. I'm really happy about that."

Meanwhile, China's Wu Yu placed eighth in Sunday's men's 5,000m in 6:27.77. Dutchman Patrick Roest emerged victorious in 6:18.01.

On Saturday, China's Han Mei finished fourth in the women's 1,500m Division A.

China took fifth position in the men's team pursuit Division A, with the United States taking gold, followed by Norway and Italy. China placed fourth in the women's team pursuit, with Japan grabbing the gold ahead of Canada and Poland.

The next leg of the ISU Speed Skating World Cup takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah, from Jan 26-28.

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