HAMAR, NORWAY – Miho Takagi became the first Japanese speedskater in 17 years to win a medal at the world all-around championships when she captured the bronze on Sunday.
Ireen Wust of the Netherlands claimed her sixth world title and Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic took silver at the two-day meet, where skaters compete in races over four different distances.
Takagi, the overnight leader after placing first in the 500 meters and sixth in the 3,000, finished second behind Wust in the 1,500 by clocking 1 minute, 55.81 seconds and sixth in the 5,000 with a time of 7:10.14 at the Hamar Olympic Hall.
Maki Tabata was the last Japanese to earn a podium spot in the all-around competition, having won a bronze medal in 2000. Seiko Hashimoto’s all-around silver in 1990 remains the best performance by a Japanese woman.
“I finally did it. I’m proud of my result and looking forward to sharing the good news (with my supporters). Still, I feel like I can do better,” said Takagi, who competed in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games as a 15-year-old.
“There haven’t been many Japanese skaters who have stood on the podium and I’m glad I inked my name as one of those few, but now I have a new goal, which is to win the color (gold) no Japanese has ever won before,” she said.
Takagi held on to her lead through the first three races but struggled to fight off fatigue in the 5,000, a distance she calls “unpredictable,” where she skated among the final group.
Saying she has done her share to prove a Japanese skater is capable of finishing high in the rankings and crediting sprinter Nao Kodaira, who has helped promote the sport, Takagi said she is ready to follow suit as she gears up for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea.
“Now it’s our turn as middle- and long-distance skaters to follow Nao and liven up the country with one year to go until the Olympics,” she said.
“I want to tell myself I can do it and have confidence, but at the same time be humble.”
In other results for Japan, Ayano Sato failed to qualify as one of the eight participants in the 5,000 and finished 10th in the cumulative ranking, while Nana Takagi was 13th.