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Japan speedskaters eye team medal

Kyodo

Having won silver in the women’s team pursuit four years ago, Japan’s speedskaters will look to match or better that when the event kicks off on Friday.

The Japan team of Maki Tabata, who was among the silver skaters in Vancouver, Nana Takagi, Ayaka Kikuchi and Misaki Oshigiri went through their final preparations on Thursday at the Adler Arena Skating Center.

Coach Masaki Hada revealed he wants to go with Tabata, Takagi and Oshigiri in Japan’s first race, with Takagi taking the ice first and then switching to Oshigiri and letting the sprinter pick up the pace with the 39-year-old Tabata bringing it home as the anchor.

“I believe we’ve put the finishing touches on our preparations,” said Tabata, who is skating in her third straight Olympics. “Now all that’s left is putting out all our effort.”

Eight teams will participate in the first round on Friday and Saturday, when the semifinals, final will be held. Should the Japanese women, whose best result in the 1,500 meters was Oshigiri’s 22nd place, win their first-round meeting against South Korea, they will likely face the Netherlands in the semifinals.

The Dutch have won nine of the 15 speed skating medals awarded to women at Sochi and have won all three World Cup competitions this season, but this is an event in which cohesion and tactics can counterbalance individual strength and which crashes and upsets are common.