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Canadian speedskaters in contention at world allround championships

03/07/2015 07:52 EST | Updated 05/07/2015 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - A pair of Canadian speedskaters sit in fourth spot after the first day of the ISU world allround championships.

Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., is fourth in the men's competition after Saturday's races at the Olympic Oval. In the women's event, Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin is ranked fourth heading into the final day of competition on Sunday.

Morrison had a great start to his day, setting a world allround championships record of 34.98 seconds in the 500-metre race, just missing out on a personal best by 13/100ths of a second.

"It's pretty inspiring to be able to race for the home crowd," said the veteran 29-year-old skater, who later finished 11th in the 5,000.

After competing in the 1,500 on Sunday, the top eight men will advance to the 10,000 later that afternoon.

"If I can be close to my personal best in the 1,500 tomorrow or get a personal best then that's going to be really great," Morrison said. "I’m excited to be skating here at home, with the crowd, with the fast ice that I know I can skate on better than these guys. I think that's to my advantage. I'm going to try to smash it tomorrow."

Sven Kramer of the Netherlands set a world allround championships record of six minutes 7.49 seconds in the 5,000 to improve upon his 10th-place finish in the 500. Kramer sits atop the men's standings ahead of Russia's Denis Yuskov and Norway's Sverre Lunde Pedersen heading into the final two races on Sunday.

Defending champion Koen Verweij of the Netherlands fell just a few strides into his 500 to end his chances of winning a second consecutive title.

"At the moment I am very disappointed and upset as the preparations the last few weeks leading up to the tournament went pretty good," said Verweij through a translator.

Calgary's Ted-Jan Bloemen, who moved to Canada from the Netherlands last June, sits well back of the leaders in 16th spot after finishing 22nd in the 500 and eighth in the 5,000.

In the women's event, Blondin surprised herself with her fourth-place showing on Saturday.

After finishing fourth in the 500, the 24-year-old skated to a sixth-place showing in the 3,000.

"I definitely wasn't expecting this," said Blondin, who's hoping for another solid result on Sunday in the 1,500 to qualify among the top eight skaters who will compete in the 5,000 later that same afternoon. "To be ranked fourth right now, I'm really happy with that. I think it's an accomplishment in itself and I'm pretty pumped about it."

Regina's Kali Christ heads into the final day of competition in eighth spot after finishing second behind American Heather Richardson in the 500 and 11th in the 3,000.

"I haven't been able to sprint well this year, but I had the fastest opener of the year and I was able to throw a good one together on the day that it mattered, which is exciting for me," said Christ, 23, who finished 10th at last year's world allround championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands. "The 1,500 is actually my best distance, so I'm really excited for tomorrow. I want to go out there and just put everything I have on the ice and hopefully get into the 5K."

Despite finishing ninth in the 3,000, Richardson of High Point, N.C., heads into Sunday in first spot overall ahead of Czech skater Martina Sablikova, who finished 10th in the 500 before winning the 3,000.

"It was a really good day," Richardson said. "I didn't know quite what to expect but a personal best in the 3K, I couldn't ask for anything more than that. I'm excited going into the last day. I have to get some more time on the other girls in the 1,500 because I've never raced a 5K before."

Defending women's champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands is in third spot overall after finishing third in the 500 and second in the 3,000.

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