STAVANGER, NORWAY – Nao Kodaira secured her second overall World Cup speedskating title in the women’s 500 meters with a race to spare at the final event of the season on Saturday.
Kodaira, who became the first Japanese woman to win the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships last month in Calgary, powered home in 37.14 seconds to finish ahead of Karolina Erbanova of the Czech Republic (37.87) and American Heather Bergsma (38.13).
Kodaira’s compatriots, Erina Kamiya and Arisa Go, were fourth and sixth respectively. The final 500 race was set to take place on Sunday.
“I was able to stay fit throughout the whole season and that meant everything,” said Kodaira, who also took second in the 1,000 (1:14.90) behind Bergsma (1:14.85).
“Having been able to see what works and what doesn’t with regards to my conditioning, I can definitely build on this for next season,” she said.
“I’ve got one more race left so I can’t start celebrating just yet,” she added.
Fellow Japanese Miho Takagi was fourth in the 1,000 in a time of 1:15.22, while Go placed ninth (1:17.53).
Kodaira, who is more than 200 points ahead of Maki Tsuji, also of Japan, in the overall standings, has won all seven of her 500 races this World Cup season. She will be regarded as a serious gold-medal contender at next year’s Pyeongchang Olympics if she can maintain her current form.
Also Saturday, Japan captured the overall women’s team pursuit title for the second successive season after holding off the Netherlands to win in 3:00.60.
“We have gained confidence by constantly getting good results,” said Takagi, who teamed up with her older sister Nana and Misaki Oshikiri for Japan. “But we have not beaten the Netherlands in the world sprint championships in the last two seasons. We need to improve our strategy and individual fundamentals.”
Japan’s team of Shota Nakamura, Shane Williamson and Ryosuke Tsuchiya was third in the men’s race in 3:44.9, behind the Dutch, who prevailed in 3:43.02.