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SHIBUKAWA, Gunma Pref. (Kyodo) Two-time defending champion Hiroki Hirako took the lead after two races in the men’s division while Yuri Obara emerged as the surprise pacesetter in the women’s competition at the speed skating national championships Wednesday.

Hirako came top with 79.135 points after placing ninth in the 500 meters and first in the 5,000 meters with a time of 6 minutes, 44.45 seconds on the opening day of the two-day event at the Gunma Sports Center Ikaho rink. Shigeyuki Dejima followed in second place.

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