12-28 February 2010 the Olympic Oval in Richmond will be the epicenter of the long track speed skating world, when the Olympic long track speed skating events will take place in this small town close to Vancouver. The Canadian athletes have already been training there since last September, and even had their national championships over there in December, but the international top skaters had to wait until the World Single Distances Championships in March to be able to skate on the Olympic ice for the very first time. Among them was Enrico Fabris, who will be defending two Olympic titles next season.
By Jolanda Abbes
After his two individual silver medals and another silver medal in the Team Pursuit at last season’s World Single Distances Championships in Nagano, expectations for this season were high for Enrico Fabris. But after a somewhat rocky start at the World Cups in the Fall and a disqualification at the European All-round Championships, Fabris saw himself faced with a strange season: “My season was strange indeed; I had good and bad moments. However, it also was another year with the best skaters in the world, that was important for me.” For Fabris, the biggest disappointment of this past season was the before-mentioned disqualification at the European All-round Championships. He got disqualified for a lane violation in his 5000m, which almost cost him his ticket to the World All-round Championships in Hamar. Thanks to Matteo Anesi’s 16th place in the overall classifications in Heerenveen, however, Fabris was allowed to skate in Hamar after all.
In Hamar, Fabris skated a solid competition at the World All-round Championships. After a good start in the 500m (fifth, 36.21) and the 5000m (bronze medal, 6:20.31), Fabris skated to the fifth place in the 1500m (1:45.59) and another bronze medal in the 10k (13.20.65) on the second day of competition. Fabris looks back on that weekend in Hamar in February: “I was in good shape there, it was the most important competition for me. Unfortunately, I made a mistake in the 1500m at the crossover with Denny Morrison. At the World All-round Championships in Berlin last year I did not skate very well, only seventh overall, so it was wonderful for me this season to be back on the podium again. Hamar was my revenge after Berlin 2008.” In Hamar, Fabris finished third overall, which represents one of the highlights of this season for him: “The best moment of the season was the bronze medal at the World All-round Championships, together with the two podium finishes at the World Cups in Heerenveen in November and February.” In terms of the World Cups in Heerenveen, Fabris is referring to his bronze medal in the 5000m in November and his silver medal in the 1500m in February.
After the World Cup Finals in Salt Lake City, where he finished sixth in the 1500m and fourth in the 5000m, Fabris traveled to Richmond for the World Single distances Championships. Less than a year from now, in February 2010, the Olympic Winter Games will take place in Vancouver, and the Richmond Olympic Oval will be the venue of all the Olympic long track speed skating events. It is a new oval, that was only put to use for the first time last September, when the Canadian long track team started training there. The first official competition at the Richmond Olympic Oval were the Canadian Single Distances Championships, last December, and the World Single Distances Championships this March were the first opportunity for the international top skaters to skate on next year’s Olympic ice. Fabris was impressed with what he saw: “I like it, it reminds me of the Torino Oval. There’s a nice atmosphere. The ice is not fast like Calgary but I had a good feeling on it.”
On this new ice, Fabris competed in the 1500m, 5000m, 10k and the Team Pursuit. “I came close to winning several medals, but failed to do so, so I'm not happy about that. But I finished fourth twice, and I was happy with my performance in the 5000m in particular, with a great fight with Marsicano.” Fabris finished fourth in the 5000m and the Team Pursuit; in the 1500m he had to settle for a sixth place, and in the 10k he finished seventh. When asked about his best distance in Richmond, Fabris elaborates: “My 1500m is my best distance, it's the most exciting race and my technique is good for it. I can be good in the 5000m as well but I think I have a better chance in the 1500m at the moment.”
All in all, they may not have been the results he was hoping for at the oval that will be so important next season, but overall Fabris looks back on the World Single Distances Championships as being a good test case for next year: “They were for sure, it was important for everybody to test that ice in several distances. And to have confidence about the Olympic facilities as well.” After Richmond, Fabris returned home to Italy for a well-deserved break and will soon start preparing for a summer jam-packed with training for the Olympic season to come, a season to which he is looking forward a lot: “It will be a tough season, with a lot of training in the summer. But first of all it will be important to be concentrated for the entire winter. But I'm already excited to be at the Olympics again!”
Photo credits: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen.