VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Keiichiro Nagashima won the men’s 500-meter speedskating silver medal and former world-record holder Joji Kato followed in third to claim the bronze as Japan collected its first medals at the Vancouver Games on Monday.
Nagashima could only manage the sixth-best time in the first race at Richmond Olympic Oval, but the 27-year-old from Hokkaido delivered an explosive second run of 34.87 seconds to clinch the silver behind South Korea’s Mo Tae Bum with a combined time of 1 minute, 9.98 seconds.
“It’s unbelievable that I was able to come from sixth place. On my second run I didn’t care if I fell. I turned on the speed,” Nagashima said.
Kato, who had a first runof 34.93 for third, took the bronze in 1:10.01 and in the process erased the painful memory of Turin, where he was tipped as a strong candidate for the gold but finished sixth.
“I was in top condition this time, so it’s really disappointing that I couldn’t get the gold. I had planned to push myself to the limit on the second run but I got tired late in the race. Even though I gave it my best effort, my time wasn’t good enough,” the 25-year-old said.
Mo, who celebrated his 21st birthday the same day, posted the second-best time of the opening race and stormed home in 34.90 to take the gold.
There was a delay of well over an hour during the competition after the ice-resurfacing machine broke down while preparing the ice after the first 10 pairs had completed their opening races.