• Kyodo

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World record holder Hiroyasu Shimizu cruised into the lead in the men’s 500 meters on Wednesday as he aims to capture his second consecutive victory at the national speed-skating sprint championships.

News photoHiroyasu Shimizu skates to first place in the men’s 500-meter
race at the national speed-skating sprint championships in
Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture.

Shimizu blazed around the Kirifuri Skate Center in Nikko, in 35.55 seconds for a new rink record. Ryohei Shimizu came in second in 35.93, while Masaaki Kobayashi and Joji Kato were in a tie for third. Both clocked 36.10. In the women’s 500, Shihomi Shinya took the lead with a rink record time of 39.16 to move a step closer to claiming her first national sprint crown.

Sayuri Osuga and Tomomi Okazaki followed in second and third with times of 39.42 and 39.63. Due to a sudden rise in temperature at the rink, the competition had to be temporarily interrupted as the ice had started to melt. The two-day event, in which the overall winners in both the 500 and 1,000 meters claim the national sprint titles, also serves as a qualifier for the World Sprint Championships to be held in Nagano in January 2004.

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