A hundred years ago today, the skaters in the Gasthofs of Klagenfurt were up in the twilight of the morning for some coffee and a light meal. The day seemed to promise well again, and the organising club (www.evw.at), having provided good ice conditions yesterday, were expected to do the same today.
Moje Öholm walked the 3.5 km (yes, why not?) towards the lake with confidence. He had done his job yesterday, and although his wins were narrow, his overall points margin was good and he felt he could fend off any attacks. The young Bohrer was more dejected. Frustrated with his two narrow losses and looking less forward to his third duel against Öholm than to the first ones. The championship had not turned out as he had hoped. The even younger Oscar Mathisen had gone to bed thinking that the championship was outside his reach. But now he had woken up feeling fresh and fit for another fight. He saw no reason why the differences made up yesterday could not be reversed today. After all they were only half-way through the championship.
The moods of the other skaters were more indifferent. They were going there to perform, enjoy their sport. Filling out the field. The other Norwegians were disappointed though. They already had their minds set more on Davos than on today’s races. But they were going to skate them, of course. And hard.
The Sun had climbed high in the sky as the 1500 m was about to start—one of the special charms of skating here in the Alpine region. Back home it wouldn’t climb as high until the second week of March, so the northern visitors felt their juices rising, in inklings of the Easter season.
The lowland best 1500 m list till now was: Eden 2.25,4 (95), Østlund 2.26,4 (97), Sinnerud 2.28,8 (04), Halvorsen 2.29,4 (94), Oscar Mathisen 2.29,9 (08), Engelsaas 2.30,2 (00), Sæterhaug 2.30,6 (08), Strömstén 2.30,8 (06), Gundersen 2.31,0 (06), Steen 2.31,2 (07), Wathén 2.31,4 (03), Mauseth 2.32,4 (96), Wiklund 2.32,8 (07) Petersen 2.33,0 (94)—indicating quite some degree of stagnation. Would speedskating ever progress again?
The races went under way (possibly) with Manno skating alone in the first pair and finishing in 2.38,2. Then the time (possibly) came for another duel between the two main rivals. Öholm now skated an excellent 1500 and didn’t give the home favourite a chance. He clocked 2.30,2 and beat his pb from Davos with more than a second, one of the best lowland times ever. Surely the championship was decided now—both skaters felt the same. The time of Bohrer was 2.32,2, also well below his pb.
In the next pair (possibly) Sigurd Mathisen was severely outdistanced by Schrey, who set a good time: 2.33,8, while Sigurd still looked travel-weary at 2.40,2. He was nearly even beaten by Wampetics, who (possibly) met Myslbeck in the 4th pair, clocking 2.41. In the next pair, (possibly) Schilling encountered surprising resistance from the Hungarian Gyurman, who won in 2.35,6, two 5ths ahead of the Viennese veteran.
Finally it was Oscar’s turn to skate against his team-mate Sæterhaug. And how he made his skates fly! The Trønder skated well, too, but soon realised he had met his match, and Oscar was flagged in at 2.29,4, winning the distance—his first international gold medal. As Martin finished one fifth ahead of Bohrer, Oscar went well past the home favourite in the rankings, and the points after three distances were: Öholm 4, Oscar Mathisen 6.5, Bohrer 8.5, Sæterhaug 12.5, Schrey 17, Sigurd Mathisen 20.5, Schilling and Gyurman 22, and Wampetics 25. The pair of main rivals was suddenly different than before.
With the Sun somewhat lower in the sky, the ice conditions were even better in the 10000 m, and the lowland best times list [Eden 17.56,0 (95), Sigurd Mathisen 18.35,2 (02), Schwartz 18.36,4 (02), Sinnerud and Larsen-Stai 18.50,0 (95), Wathén 18.52,0 (02), Hagen 18.52,4 (94), Krjukov 18.53,0 (98), Greve 18.54,2 (02), Aimar Olsen 19.03,2 (02), Sedov 19.03,6 (06), Petersen 19.05,4 (95), Helenius 19.06,4 (98), Wiinikainen 19.09,4 (02), Strömstén 19.09,6 (07)] was bound for alterations.
(As Skøyteboka seems to indicate) Oscar Mathisen was paired with Öholm (possibly) in the first pair. Inexperienced with the distance, he (probably) battled with the Swede for some laps, hoping from the start to win the pair firstly and secondly to open a gap wide enough between them to make room for two other skaters, thereby winning the championship. But the title holder was strong and eventually blew the wind out of the hopeful Norwegian teenager. Both however set excellent times, Öholm 18.24,0 and Mathisen 18.43,4, the 2nd and 5th best ever lowland times.
Schrey and (possibly) Gyurman (possibly) in the next pair were more modest, clocking 19.38,6 and 20.12,6. Then, Sigurd Mathisen and Franz Schilling (possibly) set out, but Oscar’s brother soon tired and allowed the Austrian to skate away, finishing in the decent time of 19.12,0, with Sigurd doubly lapped and ending up close to 21 minutes. Bohrer and Sæterhaug (possibly) in the last pair also achieved excellent times, the home favourite soon taking a strong lead and fighting valiantly for at least a distance win, eventually failing that, too, and finishing in 18.29,8 with Sæterhaug exactly half a minute behind—equivalent to 3rd and 13th places in the all-time lowland list.
Final standings: GOLD: Moje Öholm, Sweden, 5 points, Silver: Oscar Mathisen, Norway 9.5, bronze: Thomas Bohrer, Austria 10.5, 4.Martin Sæterhaug, Norway 15.5, 5.Arne Schrey, Finland 22, 6.Franz Schilling, Austria 26, 7.Sigurd Mathisen, Norway 27.5, 8.Desider Gyurman, Hungary 28.
The Eislauf Verein, aided very likely by the obligatory IEV representative, arranged an elegant and precise price giving ceremony, and as soon as they had received their medals, diplomas and honorary prizes, the Norwegian team went to their Gasthof rooms and started packing. They swore to seek a revenge for their defeat at the World Championship in Davos next weekend, and to that end they checked out, made their way to the railway station with all their luggage, and embarked on another journey bound for the Swiss skating capital, hoping for more days of rest and preparation this time.
It was already dark, and the stars shone in the sky as the train cranked out from the station and spewed dark smoke at an ever- increasing rate, gaining speed into the night.