KEARNS, Utah — Canadian Alex Boisvert-Lacroix won the men’s 500 metres and Japan’s Nao Kodaira took the women’s 500 on Friday on the opening day of the World Cup speedskating event at the Utah Olympic Oval.
Boisvert-Lacroix, who won his first World Cup gold medal last week in Calgary, finished in a personal-best 34.15 seconds.
“It’s really hard to go on after a win, recompose and come back to a race,” Boisvert-Lacroix said. “Today I felt amazing, even in my warm-up I felt I had it. I knew I was going for a personal best. To win today, I needed a personal best.”
Finland’s Mika Poutala was second in 34.17, and Dutchman Ronald Mulder followed in 34.22.
Kodaira had a personal best of 36.50. South Korea’s Lee Sang-Hwa was second in 36.71, and Japan’s Arisa Go was third at 37.17.
Mitchell Whitmore and Brittany Bowe were the only U.S. skaters competing in the 500s. Whitmore was eighth in the men’s race at 34.38, and Bowe was 13th in the women’s race at 37.69 seconds.
Whitmore, a two-time Olympian, fractured his tailbone during a bicycle crash in Montana in August. He went through six weeks of limited training while the tailbone healed and now is working on getting back to the same strength level he had before the accident.
“The result was a little lower than I expected for that time,” Whitmore said. “Overall, it wasn’t a great race, but I was really happy my start was quicker. It’s been a struggle of mine since coming back from being hurt.”
Bowe also is on the comeback trail after losing nearly a year while battling concussion symptoms. The four-time world champion suffered a concussion after colliding with a teammate in a training session in July, 2016.
She showed some rust on her first lap after missing the Calgary World Cup race earlier in December because of an illness.
“This past year hasn’t been exactly what I’ve wanted it to be,” Bowe said. “I got off the line as best as I could. I haven’t raced in a couple of weeks. It was my first start since Norway.”
Japan won the women’s team pursuit in 2:50.87, followed by the Netherlands and Germany.
Canada took the men’s team pursuit in a national record 3:36.44. Italy was second, and New Zealand third.
Denny Morrison was part of the Canadian team which set the previous record 10 years ago. After a motorcycle accident in 2015 and a stroke in 2016, Morrison said he’s glad to be back at the top level.
“This is real testament not just for what I’ve been through, but also how these guys in training all summer held me along,” said the Fort St. John, B.C., native. “Now I felt like I could do something back to the team. To help this team break the national record is an incredible feeling.”
— With files from The Canadian Press