By Liam Morgan
Dutch city Heerenveen is preparing to host the 2015 International Skating Union (ISU) World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships, which will take place outside of the month of March for the first time.
The Championships, which are due to start tomorrow and conclude on Sunday (February 15), have been moved in order to better reflect the schedule of an Olympic season.
In another alteration to how the tournament is run, qualification was no longer decided on the ranking following the ISU Speedskating World Cup final, but instead it was based on the results of the four Speedskating World Cup events in November and December last year.
These were held in Obihiro and Seoul, as well as Berlin and Heerenveen.
Countries will be allowed to enter three athletes each in the 500m metres, 1,000m, 1,500m and 3,000m races, while that number will be reduced to two for the women's 5,000m, the men's 10,000m and the mass start events.
Men's 5,000m world record holder and Sochi 2014 gold medallist Sven Kramer of The Netherlands will look to add the world crown to his already impressive array of titles, while Russia's Pavel Kulizhnikov will be hoping to carry on his excellent run of form in both the 500m and 1,000m races.
South Korean Sang-Hwa Lee also comes in to the Championships with a reign of recent dominance as she currently holds the Olympic 500m title and the world record, and she is also the overall World Cup leader for the distance.
German duo Anni Friesinger and Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann boast the most ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships golds with 11, and just behind them Martina Sábliková of the Czech Republic has eight gold medals, the same figure as Dutchman Kramer.
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February 2015: Nuis edges close contest with Kulizhnikov on home ice at Speed Skating World Cup