Gilmore Junio wins bronze at long track World Cup finals
World Cup leader Kulizhnikov sidelined after testing positive for meldonium
Canada's Gilmore Junio raced to a bronze medal at the first men's 500-metre race at the speed skating World Cup finals on Friday.
The result helped pad the 25-year-old Calgary native's hold of the third spot in the overall World Cup 500m standings.
"It was probably my best race of the season," said Junio, who could still potentially claim the crown. "That's something I've been working on for my whole career."
Ruslan Murashov won the race, while his Russia teammate and World Cup leader Pavel Kulizhnikov missed the competition after testing positive for meldonium.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WCFHeerenveen?src=hash">#WCFHeerenveen</a> <br>BRONZE 500m(1) <a href="https://twitter.com/cdnhappygilmore">@cdnhappygilmore</a> <a href="https://t.co/C7jxsmyitA">pic.twitter.com/C7jxsmyitA</a>—@SSC_PVC
Murashov finished in 34.96 seconds to move second behind Kulizhnikov in the season standings. Dutchman Ronald Mulder was second in 35.05, just ahead of Calgary's Junio.
Mulder only got to start the race after Kulizhnikov pulled out of the event at Thialf oval following news of the positive test.
Mulder told Dutch broadcaster NOS that Kulizhnikov had "stood head and shoulders" above other sprinters in recent seasons.
"He was the best in recent years," Mulder said. "We thought if he keeps skating, how can we beat him?"
In the women's 500, Brittany Bowe beat U.S. teammate Heather Richardson-Bergsma into second place with a time of 37.84. Jorien Ter Mors of the Netherlands was third.
Richardson-Bergsma is second in the season standings, behind Hong Zhang of China. The final 500 of the World Cup season for men and women is Sunday.
If Kulizhnikov is stripped of the 200 World Cup points he has won this year — meldonium was added to the list of banned substances as of Jan. 1 — he would also lose his lead in the men's standings.
Meldonium, a blood-flow boosting drug produced in Latvia, is most common in Eastern European and former Soviet countries, where it is often available over the counter.
At least three Russian speedskaters, Kulizhnikov and two short-track skaters, have tested positive for meldonium. The head of the Russian skating federation has blamed sabotage by teammates.
"In our specific case, there is a very high probability, and we will prove it, that the banned substance was planted on three athletes deliberately," skating federation president Alexei Kravtsov said Wednesday. "According to our information, it was done by their teammates."
World all-round champion Sven Kramer said he was shocked by Kulizhnikov's positive test, while adding that results of tests on the Russian's "B" sample have not yet been released.
"Maybe it's good for the sport. It is good that there is a system that catches cheats," the Dutchman told NOS.
Russia added its second victory of the day when Natalya Voronina won the women's 3,000-meters in 4 minutes, 8.15 seconds. Jorien Voorhuis of the Netherlands was second and another Russian, Olga Graf, finished third.
Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, who was already assured of the World Cup title after winning the first five 3,000 races of the six-race season, is not skating at the finals.
In other Canadian results, Alexandre St-Jean was seventh, while Alex Boisvert-Lacroix and Laurent Dubreuil came in 11th and 12th, respectively.
With files from the Associated Press