Sven Kramer will look to add to his medal haul ©Getty Images

Dutch legend Sven Kramer is hoping he will be back to his best at the International Skating Union World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Salt Lake City.

The 33-year-old long-distance specialist has won 20 gold medals at the event, a record for men and women, but has spent most of this season struggling with a back injury.

He returned at last weekend's World Cup in Calgary and competed in the 5,000 metres B-Division.

Kramer, a four-time Olympic gold medallist who has also won nine titles at the World Allround Championships, stunned the crowd in Canada by retiring after 3,000m while at world record pace.

He made it clear, however, that he was trying to preserve his energy for the event at the Utah Olympic Oval which begins tomorrow.

"I would not have done this if I had skated in the A-Division," Kramer said 

"But skating in the non-televised B-Division, I felt that I could experiment a bit.

"I wanted to test myself at the speed that is needed to skate a world record, but to do that for a full 5,000m would be too much only a week ahead of the World Championships.

"I'm really happy with how I felt on the ice. 

"This was the ideal way to get ready."

The Netherlands are speed skating's traditional superpower and have travelled to Salt Lake City, the 2002 Winter Olympic host city, in force.

Ireen Wüst is part of the strong Dutch squad ©Getty Images
Ireen Wüst is part of the strong Dutch squad ©Getty Images

Five-time Olympic champion Ireen Wüst has also been selected and will defend her women's 1,500m title.

Double all-round world gold medallist Patrick Roest will be a threat in the men's 5,000m and Jorrit Bergsma will defend his 10,000m title.

Thomas Krol is the defending champion in the men's 1,500m, the distance team-mate Kjeld Nuis won Olympic gold in.

Nuis, also the 1,000m Olympic champion, is looking to add to his two world titles from the event.

In the men's 500m and 1,000m, Russia's three-time world champion Pavel Kulizhnikov is a huge threat but Norway's 500m Olympic champion Håvard Lorentzen is also down to start.

Czech skater Martina Sáblíková, a three-time Olympic and 15-time world single distances champion, has usually dominated the women's long-distance races.

Britanny Bowe of the United States will defend her women's 1,000m crown and Japan's Olympic champion Nao Kodaira will be the favourite in the women's 500m.

Four days of racing are planned in Salt Lake City.

The men's 5,000m and the women's 3,000m will be held on day one tomorrow, as well as the men's and women's team sprints.