OBIHIRO, HOKKAIDO – Nao Kodaira won the women’s 1,000 meters in the speedskating with Miho Takagi adding another gold in the 3,000 at the Asian Winter Games on Monday.
Kodaira, who has won all six of her World Cup events this season in the 500, showed her class in the longer distance as she won in an Asian record of 1 minute, 15.19 seconds at Tokachi Oval. Takagi came home in 1:15.31 for the silver, ahead of China’s Zhang Hong, who took bronze in 1:15.75.
“There were no European skaters here today but I was focused on maintaining the same level of motivation. I could keep going till the end,” said Kodaira, who will compete in the 500 on Tuesday.
“I think we’ll also have the 1,000 first next year at the (Pyeongchang) Olympics so there are things I can learn here, and I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
In her second race of the day, Takagi won the 3,000 in an Asian record of 4:05.75. Kim Bo-reum of South Korea was runner-up in 4:07.80, with Ayano Sato third in 4:10.07.
“When I crossed the line I thought I had the best race so far this season,” Takagi said. “I was slow at the start, but I picked it up and was clocking the time I wanted each lap. I was in rhythm and had better pace than I usually do.”
Back in the city where she started her skating career as a child and also went to high school, the 22-year-old Takagi punched the air in joy at the finish line.
“So many people came to watch and I could really feel them cheering me on,” said Takagi, who will be competing in three more events. “I feel it’s a duty to win gold medals skating for the national team, but I want to show them more than just that.”
There were two silver medals in the men’s events for Japan, Tsubasa Hasegawa in the 500 and Ryosuke Tsuchiya in the 5,000.
Hasegawa clocked 34.79 but was edged by Gao Tingyu of China by 0.10. Cha Min-kyu of South Korea was third in 34.94.
Tsuchiya’s 6:29.67 trailed South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon (6:24.32), who won the 10,000 at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Seitaro Ichinohe claimed bronze in 6:31.84.
Usuph makes history
Narita Chiba Pref. KYODO
Sixteen-year-old Fathima-Azquiya-Hafza Usuph was only able to get one of her two runs in the women’s snowboard giant slalom on Sunday, but her name will now appear as the first female Sri Lankan to compete at the Asian Winter Games.
Among the five athletes from Sri Lanka, making its first appearance at the regional meet, Usuph is the only female representative from the country, which has no snow.
And it also saw a new start for the multi-talented teenager, who won the women’s backstroke national title in swimming last November and is dreaming of making both summer and winter Olympics.
“I’m really proud of myself as I’m the only female athlete here from Sri Lanka and I’m one of the youngest (in the entire meet). It’s been really great,” she said after racing as the last of 15 female boarders at Sapporo Teine.
Usuph, who only started snowboarding in 2015, stumbled along the way but crossed the finish line, what she claimed was her main goal of the meet. Her second run never came as she was disqualified for not passing a late gate, but the whole new scene had her smiling.
“I was unfortunate but it’s all good, I completed the race. I’d give myself a 90 (out of 100) as I actually did it,” she said. “We came for training yesterday, I hadn’t done the (starting) opening gate so it was really scary but I took up the challenge and got over it.”