Speedskaters decide Olympic tickets

Russia's best speedskaters gathered in Kolomna just outside Moscow to fight for a place at the Games in Vancouver. The first day of the Russian championships saw the sprinters settling old scores.

Ladies were first on the ice, and it was the 2007 Russian champion Yulia Nemaya who took the lead in the 500-meter event after the first heat, with Ekaterina Malysheva and Svetlana Kaykan clocking the second and third fastest times respectively.

The leader was keen to prove her class in the second heat to secure both her second domestic title in three years and a precious place at the upcoming Olympics, where there is going to be a lot at stake.

“I already know what the Games are like. I competed in Turin. And it was painful, as I represented my country. But when I fell down, I felt like I had let the whole country down. But I gained vast experience, so it's like revenge for me. I am looking to show my very best in Vancouver,” Yulia Nemaya, winner of the women's 500m, said.

Meanwhile, in the men's event, Russia's five-time champion Dmitry Lobkov was regarded as the undisputed favorite. The 28-year old did not disappoint and won in style. The now six-time champion of Russia realizes he will face a far tougher test in Canada.

“The competition on the international arena in the men's 500 meters is extremely tough at the moment. I can easily give you about 15 names – most of them World Cup leg winners – and any one of them can win the Olympics, with no apparent leader in this discipline. So it's going to be a war there in Vancouver,” Dmitry Lobkov, winner in Men's 500m, said.

Speaking on the matter, head coach of Russian speedskating team Nikolay Gudin remarked, “That's exactly what we expected to see. The results our athletes have shown this time around agree with the way they have been performing during the whole season, and at the World Cup legs. The point is – we are glad our leading skaters are reaching their top form in time for Vancouver.”

With two places on the Russian speedskating team now decided, there is still over a month left before the Games. This means the winners have some time to celebrate their brief victory before facing probably the greatest challenge of their lives.