Team Ireland short track speed skaters Sean McAnuff (24) and Liam O’Brien (22) have concluded competing at the opening ISU World Cup in China, the first step on the road to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, with each athlete setting a new personal best at the event on what will become Olympic ice in February next year.
On the opening day of competiton, McAnuff and O’Brien lined up for the opening rounds of the 1500m and 500m distances. In Heat 2 of the 1500m heats, O’Brien initially finished fourth in a time of 2:24.378. However, following a review by race officials, an American skater who finished ahead O’Brien was penalised and the Irishman was advanced to the quarterfinals. McAnuff drew to race in Heat 5 and this turned out to be the swiftest of the fourteen 1500m heats in Beijing. He finished fourth in a time of 2:17.035 smashing his own personal best by three seconds even though it was not enough to advance any further. It did garner him an overall placement for the distance of 43rd and two World Cup ranking points. O’Brien came back for the 1500m quarterfinals and raced in Heat 7 coming in fifth with a time of 2:22.455 meaning he would race again in the ranking finals on Day Three of the event.
In the afternoon of Day One, McAnuff and O’Brien were back on the ice for the 500m preliminaries. McAnuff raced in Heat 4 and finished fifth in a time of 43.416 giving him an overall distance classification of 71st. O’Brien came third in Heat 8 with a new personal best time of 42.608 which unfortunately was not sufficient to move on to subsequent rounds and he finished overall in 47th place.
There was a lighter schedule on Day Two of the World Cup with just the 1000m preliminaries to be contested. O’Brien was first up in Heat 4 where he finished fifth in a time of 1:27.858 which was very close to his personal best. He ended up classified in 68th place for the distance. McAnuff took third in Heat 15 with a time of 1:28.911 just missing out on progressing as a fastest third place finisher. He ranked 47th overall for the distance and completed his racing for this World Cup.
On Day Three, O’Brien started in Heat 2 of the 1500m ranking finals. He was in the mix for most of the race, but he was impeded by a Croatian skater with just over three laps to go and crashed into the padding. He got back up and finished in a time of 2:55.839 for sixth place in the heat. He did earn twelve world ranking points for 33rd place in the standings.
McAnuff and O’Brien travel next to Nagoya, Japan to compete in the second ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating of the season this coming weekend (28-31 October).
“There are lots of positives to take into next week in Nagoya,” O’Brien said. “Hopefully, I can build on the results this week and work towards qualifying Ireland a spot at the upcoming Olympics.”
“I am very excited to see that my skating has improved over the last year of training,” McAnuff said. “This World Cup was my first time racing in 20 months, but I feel it gave me the chance to get back into a racing mentality, practice my strategies, and continue to learn for the next World Cup in Japan.”