KUSHIRO, Hokkaido – Former 500-meter world record holder Joji Kato and Sayuri Yoshii held onto their opening-day leads to complete victory at the speedskating national sprint championships on Sunday. Kato clocked 36.01 seconds to win his second 500-meter race in as many days and then fought off two-time defending champion and 1,000-meter winner Keiichiro Nagashima to capture his first national sprint crown. Kato collected 144.730 points after four races to edge out Nagashima, who won the 1,000 on both days, by 0.25 at Yanagimachi speedskating track in Hokkaido. Tadashi Obara was third overall. Veteran sprinter Hiroyasu Shimizu, 500-meter gold medalist at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games, finished third in the 500 but pulled out of the 1,000. Yoshii racked up 160.575 points in the women’s rankings following a pair of 500-meter wins.
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