CALGARY, Canada — After less than a week of training on the new Olympic Oval's ice, the world's top speedskaters confidently predicted Thursday that no record will be beyond reach in this weekend's World Cup competition.
More than 120 skaters from 18 countries have been testing the surface this week for the first major competition to be staged at the indoor oval built for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. All agreed that conditions at the $30-million Alberta facility are superb.
"It is possible any world record could be broken," said East Germany's Karin Kania, reigning women's overall world champion. "I'm very impressed with Calgary. The ice is of great quality. I think we can make some very good results."
Kania, defending Olympic champion and world record-holder in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter events, said she plans to retire from competition at the end of the season.
"My great aim is the Olympics and a successful Olympics," said Kania, 26, who will enter all five events in this weekend's World Cup and in the Olympics Feb. 13-28.
Kania will face keen competition from 500-meter record-holder Bonnie Blair of Champaign, Ill.; Katie Class of St. Paul, Minn.; East German teammates Christa Rothenburger and Andrea Ehrig, and Japan's Seiko Hashimoto.
Dutch skater Yvonne Van Gennip, world record-holder in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter events, is sidelined with a foot injury.
The United States men's 500-meter skaters--Dan Jansen of West Allis, Wis., and Nick Thometz of Minnetonka, Minn.--face a strong challenge from East Germans Jens Uwe-Mey and Andre Hoffman, Soviets Sergei Fokichev and Igor Zhelezovsky, Japan's Akira Kuroiwa and Yukihiro Matani, the Netherlands' Leo Visser and Norway's Geir Karlstad.
"The oval is the best in the world by far," Jansen said. "The ice is so fast right now, and all the top guys are here. Everyone is pumped up . . . to make a good showing."
The three-day competition begins today with men's and women's 500-meter sprints, the women's 1,500-meter race and the men's 5,000-meter race.