The first leg of the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating season is set to begin in Obihiro in Japan as Olympic champions return to action.
The competition, due to last until Sunday (November 18) at the Meiji Hokkaido Tokachi Oval will begin with the team pursuit.
In the men’s category, the Olympic gold and silver medallists Norway and South Korea will be vying for the top spot on the podium as The Netherlands look for revenge after they were eliminated at the semi-finals stage at Pyeongchang 2018.
In the women’s event, teams will be looking to topple the Olympic champions and world record holders Japan who have not lost a World Cup race since 2016.
In last year’s season, Japan won seven consecutive gold medals in the event.
As the competition moves to the individual events, day one will see both the men’s and women’s 500 metres Olympic champions take to the track.
Norway’s Havard Lorentzen leads the field in the men’s event, whilst Japan’s Nao Kodaira is the fastest skater in pre-season.
In the men’s 1,500m, Dutch Olympic champion Kjeld Nuis will be looking to avenge his national trials loss to teammate Patrick Roest who holds the fastest preseason time of 1min 44.48sec.
Nuis’ Dutch teammate, Ireen Wust also leads the way in the women’s event.
The five-time Olympic gold medallist is closely pursued by another Dutch skater, Antoinette de Jong and Japan's Olympic silver medallist Miho Takagi.
The Japanese skater won all five World Cup races she competed in last season but only managed the Olympic silver medal at Pyeongchang 2018.