Three GBR skaters earned the right to compete at the 2020 ISU European Speed Skating Championships, with Gemma COOPER, Ellia SMEDING and Cornelius KERSTEN all showing just how far the development of GB Longtrack has come in the last few years.
This report on the competition is provided direct from the venue of Heerenveen:
This weekend saw the 3rd European Single Distance Championships at the Thialf stadium in Heerenveen and what a spectacular three day event it was. Some 10,000 visitors per day watched the best speed skaters in Europe battle for the top positions.
Team GB had a record 3 skaters competing this year. Gemma Cooper (mass start), Cornelius Kersten (mass start) and Ellia Smeding (1000, 1500 and mass start). The huge crowd and commentators welcomed them with great enthusiasm and cheered them on all the way.
All eyes were on Ellia when as 1st reserve she had to skate the 1500m last minute. As first distance of the tournament she was first pair but alone on the track; 7000 eyes and live television watching what the young Brit could do. Ellia held her nerve and put in a solid race. Next up was the 1000m on Sunday. Ellia was 4th pair against a more experienced and faster Polish skater. Even with a nerve induced false start Ellia was able to skate her own race beating not just her opponent but also her own British record in a new pb of 1.18.5 giving her a very respectable 14th position, GB’s highest ranking position at an international championship to date.
The mass start finished off the weekend’s racing. Gemma who is very experienced in short track was able to use her extensive skills to read the race. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to hold the high tempo throughout the 16 laps, she made herself and the Union Jack as visible as possible even taking poll position at one point. Cornelius started off strong but unfortunately had blade problems so was unable to finish the race.
All in all an extremely positive and visible event for GB longtrack. TV commentary was extensive and complimentary. Ellia had a number of interviews which along with Gemma’s mass start visibility has increased the profile of the GB sporters.
Next up World Cup in Calgary.