VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Japan’s silver medal win in the women’s speedskating team pursuit final on Saturday was met with a mixture of joy and frustration after its skaters missed out on the gold by a whisker.
Masako Hozumi, Nao Kodaira and Maki Tabata were ahead for most of the final at the Richmond Olympic Oval and looked to be on course to give Japan its first gold medal of the Vancouver Games.
But Daniela Anschutz Thoms, Stephanie Beckert and Katrin Mattscherodt came from behind at the end to defend Germany’s title, snatching the gold medal with a time of 3 minutes, 02.82 seconds, a mere 0.02 ahead of the Japanese.
“To be quite honest, it was very frustrating. I found myself wishing my legs were a little bit longer,” said Hozumi. “I gave it my all on the last lap.”
“I felt so disappointed at the end of the race but that feeling has disappeared,” Tabata said. “I wanted a medal so this is like a dream. I have skated all this time because of the joy I had in winning a gold medal as a first grade pupil at elementary school, and in my last Olympics I have returned to that point.”
The silver was Japan’s best-ever Olympic women’s speedskating result and the first women’s medal since Tomomi Okazaki won the 500-meter bronze at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Japan’s delegation head and former Olympic speedskater Seiko Hashimoto could not hide her disappointment at coming so close to the gold.
“I really wanted them to win the gold medal because they got so far. To be pipped like that at the death is frustrating,” said Hashimoto. “Hopefully, they can rebound at the (2014) Sochi Olympics.”