NAGANO – Speed skaters Biba Sakurai, Jumpei Yoshizawa and Yuzo Takamido each booked their first Olympic spots ever on the first day of action at the Short Track National Championships on Saturday.
Sakurai came first and second in the women’s 1,500 meters and 500 meters, respectively, at Nagano Big Hat to win Olympic spots in both events.
She earned the highest points at both distances combined from the single-distance championships in September and the national championships, clearing the Japan Skating Federation’s qualification standard for next February’s Vancouver Olympics.
“I want to compete in the 1,500 at the Olympics, so I believe that my will to win is stronger than anyone in this event. I was also focused in the 500. I am relieved that I was able to secure berths in the events I competed in,” Sakurai said.
Takamido, who was first in the men’s 1,500 and third in the same event in September, also qualified based on his points total, while Yoshizawa won a berth in the men’s 500 with a third-place finish after winning the same event at the single-distance championships.
But veteran Satoru Terao saw his hopes of a fifth Olympic appearance all but dashed after placing sixth in the 1,500 and seventh in the 500. The 34-year-old, who is hampered from the effects of a broken left ankle suffered in February, finished fourth in both events at the single-distance championships.
“I totally lack power. I know that my chances are dim with only the 1,000 meters remaining, but as long as there is any hope at all, I want to fight till the end,” Terao said. “My start is pitiful and my reaction is way too slow.”
Hiroaki Sato and Yui Sakai won the men’s and women’s 500-meter titles, respectively.
The men’s and women’s 1,000 meters will be held on the final day of competition on Sunday. The final Olympic spot for men will be determined along with four berths for women.