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Speed skating world records fall in Salt Lake City

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KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Japan’s Nao Kodaira and Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen broke world records on the final day of a World Cup speed skating event at the Utah Olympic Oval on Sunday.

Kodaira finished in 1 minute, 12.09 seconds in the women’s 1000m, her third race victory in three days. U.S. Olympian Brittany Bowe held the previous record of 1:12.18 from 2015.

The Dutch-born Bloemen finished in 6:01.86 in the men’s 5000m.

Dutch skater Sven Kramer held the previous record of 6:03.32 set in 2007 but was not in Sunday’s race on “The World’s Fastest Ice,” preferring to stay in Europe to train for the Olympic Trials.

“I always looked up to that old world record,” Bloemen, who took Kramer’s 10,000m world record in 2015, said, according to the International Skating Union. “That was such an epic race and Sven was so angry. His 6:03 was so much faster than all the ties that were ever skated, and even after that race no one actually has come close.”

Now marks the first time since 1998 that no Dutch man holds the world record in an individual Olympic event. Kramer is undefeated internationally over 5000m since 2012, according to Schaatsstatistieken.nl.

“I think I would have beaten him [today],” Bloemen said, according to the ISU. “At the first three World Cups this season you saw that the momentum was on my side. I got closer every race, and I think this would have been the final blow.”

Bowe improved on a pair of 13th-place finishes in the 500m on Friday and Saturday. She finished in 1:13.55 to place sixth in the 1000m.

Seeing her world record fall broke Bowe’s heart, but she took comfort in ending the weekend with her strongest performance over three days. She showed progress after losing significant time to head injuries a year ago.

“My skating felt better,” Bowe said. “The timing felt better. I feel like I was connecting and, yeah, I definitely felt stronger than I have so far this year.”

Russia’s Denis Yuskov won the men’s 1000m in 1:06.92, a half-second off Shani Davis‘ world record. Yuskov broke Davis’ eight-year-old 1000m world record Saturday.

Yuskov edged Dutchman skater Koen Verweij, who finished in 106.94. Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov followed in 1:06.96.

Jonathan Garcia was the top American, seventh with a personal best of 1:07.40. Joey Mantia was 10th, and Davis 12th.

Garcia came into the race with the goal of producing a top-six finish. He said his performance was about 90 percent of where he wants to be, but feels like he is on an upward trend ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Garcia’s main goal is to simply not peak too early over the next two months.

“I know myself, I’ve been skating for 23 years.” Garcia said. “I can’t maintain being my best every day for six months or two months. I really have to make sure I strategically place myself where I need to be throughout the season.”

Russia’s Natalia Voronina took the women’s 3,000 in 3:57.70. The Czech Republic’s Martina Sablikova was second in 3:57.84, and Germany’s Claudia Pechstein finished third in 3:58.69.

The weekend marked the final World Cup before the U.S. Olympic Trials from Jan. 2-7

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Lindsey Vonn wins 79th World Cup race as oldest downhill victor (video)

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Lindsey Vonn became the oldest woman to win a World Cup downhill with three weeks until the Olympics, notching her 79th career victory in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Saturday.

In PyeongChang, she can become the oldest female Alpine medalist in Olympic history.

Vonn prevailed by .92 of a second over Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather on Saturday, moving seven shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s record of 86 World Cup victories.

“My focus right now is just so much on Olympics that I haven’t really thought about [the record] that much this season,” Vonn said. “After the Olympics, that will be my No. 1 priority again, and I’ll try to just rack up as many wins before I retire as possible.”

American Jackie Wiles was third to become the fifth U.S. female Alpine skier to qualify for PyeongChang, joining Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, among others. (full U.S. Olympic roster here)

Shiffrin was seventh in Saturday’s race in her least comfortable discipline.

Full results are here.

Vonn, 33, broke Austrian Elisabeth Goergl‘s record as the oldest woman to win a World Cup downhill. Goergl is still the oldest winner for any World Cup race, taking a super-G in 2014 at nearly 34 years old.

Vonn, already an Olympic medal favorite in downhill and super-G, won her first downhill since Jan. 21, 2017.

She had raced eight downhills in between with four podium finishes, including taking second to Italian Sofia Goggia on Friday in Cortina. Goggia failed to finish Saturday.

The World Cup continues with a super-G in Cortina on Sunday (5:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

“Mentally, I feel like it’s the first podium I ever got,” Vonn said. “Back in 2004, I feel the same. I have the same motivation, the same drive, the same excitement. I love going fast. That’s never changed. The only thing that’s changed is my body is not as good as it once was, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still win.

“I’ll keep going until my poor little knee gives out.”

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IOC approves unified Korea Olympic team, 22 North Korean athletes

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North and South Korean athletes will compete on the same team at the Olympics for the first time, while the IOC approved 22 North Koreans to compete overall in PyeongChang.

The IOC on Saturday approved the Koreas’ agreement to field a unified women’s hockey team and to march together in the Opening Ceremony behind the Korean Unification flag.

Twelve North Koreans have been added to the South Korean women’s hockey team. The other North Korean athletes will compete in figure skating, Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and short track speed skating.

Full details are here.

“Today marks a milestone on a long journey,” IOC president Thomas Bach said. “Since 2014, the IOC has addressed the special situation of having the Olympic Winter Games 2018 on the Korean Peninsula. Until today, we met separately with the parties on a bilateral basis to address an often fast-changing political situation in a comprehensive way. Today is therefore a great day because the Olympic Spirit has brought all sides together. This was not an easy journey.”

At the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9, one North Korean and one South Korean will carry the flag in the Parade of Nations. The Koreas previously marched together at the Opening Ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

The hockey team will compete as “Korea,” under the unification flag and using the song “Arirang” as its anthem. North Koreans will compete under their own flag in all other sports.

North Korea did not qualify any spots for the Olympics, but the IOC had power to offer special invitations.

“Such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago,” Bach said. “The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula.”

The 22 North Korean athletes mark more North Koreans at a Winter Olympics than the last six Winter Games combined.

North Korea had zero athletes in 2014 and two in 2010.

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