Olympic silver medallist Angelina Golikova is among the Russian absentees at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships ©Getty Images

The World Speed Skating Championships are set to begin tomorrow at the Hamar Olympic Hall in Norway, with a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes to be implemented for the first time at a major International Skating Union (ISU) event.

Prior to the ISU's application of the International Olympic Committee recommendations on the non-participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at international events, the Norwegian Skating Federation had called for a ban on competitors from both countries following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian Skating Union announced on Saturday (February 26) that it had pulled out of the World Championships, citing "the closure of the airspace of Poland" and "the cancellation of flights by a number of other European countries."

Men's and women's sprint and all-around titles are up for grabs across the four days of competition which is set to run until Sunday (March 6) in Hamar.

The sprint events are scheduled to be held tomorrow and Friday (March 4), with competitors' scores over two 500 metres and two 1,000m races added up to decide the individual rankings.

Angelina Golikova, who took bronze in the 500m for the Russian Olympic Committee at Beijing 2022, will be absent from the women's sprint competition.

That event looks wide open, with the defending champion and 1,000m Olympic champion Miho Takagi of Japan opting to compete in the all-around competition instead.

Treble Olympic champion Irene Schouten of The Netherlands is set to bid for further success in the women's all-around event in Hamar ©Getty Images
Treble Olympic champion Irene Schouten of The Netherlands is set to bid for further success in the women's all-around event in Hamar ©Getty Images

The 1,000m silver medallist Jutta Leerdam of The Netherlands and her compatriot Femke Kok are among the contenders.

On the men's side, Japan's reigning champion Tatsuya Shinhama, former world champions Kai Verbij of The Netherlands and Håvard Lorentzen of Norway, and Canadian 1,000m Olympic silver medallist Laurent Dubreuil will be aiming for gold.

Men's and women's team sprints are scheduled to be held on Saturday (March 5).

The all-around competitions on Saturday and Sunday are to feature races across four distances - 500m, 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m in the women's event, and 500m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m in the men's.

After taking three gold medals at Beijing 2022, The Netherlands' Irene Schouten appears favourite for the women's title.

Her compatriot Antoinette de Jong, the Olympic bronze medallist in the 1,500m, and former all-around and current sprint world champion Takagi are likely to be among her main challengers.

Another Dutch skater in Patrick Roest is bidding for his fourth consecutive men's world title.

However, he finished second to Nils van der Poel in the men's 5,000m and 10,000m events at Beijing 2022.

Sweden's van der Poel set Olympic records in both of those races, and a world record in the longer distance.