SOCHI, RUSSIA – Nao Kodaira could only manage 13th place for the best finish among Japanese speedskaters as China’s Zhang Hong strutted away for her first Olympic gold medal in the women’s 1,000 meters on Thursday.
Zhang took off flying and never looked back en route to clocking a time of 1 minute, 14.02 seconds at Adler Arena Skating Center.
As has been the case for all the speedskating events thus far, the Dutch found their way to the podium with Sochi 3,000-meter champion Ireen Wust and Margot Boer, winner of the bronze in the women’s 500, taking the silver and bronze, respectively, with times of 1:14.69 and 1:14.90.
Kodaira, who finished fifth at the Vancouver Games, was off Zhang’s time of 17.94 in the first 200 meters by 0.16 and never gained ground as she finished in 1:16.45. Miyako Sumiyoshi and Maki Tsuji were back in 22nd and 27th, respectively. South Korean Lee Sang-hwa, who defended her title from Vancouver in the women’s 500, was 12th.
“My blade got caught in the ice and slowed me down some,” said Kodaira. “I was fired up and I tried to give it my all. The world’s skaters have developed at a dramatic pace, so I have to keep on improving in order to catch them.”
The Netherlands have won four gold medals in speed skating, featuring Stefan Groothuis’ first victory in the men’s 1,000 on Wednesday.