CALGARY, ALBERTA – Reigning world sprint champion Nao Kodaira rewrote her own Japanese national record Sunday while winning the women’s 500 meters at a speedskating World Cup meet.
Kodaira sliced 0.22 second off her previous mark, set last season, when she crossed the finish line at the Olympic Oval in 36.53 seconds, with world record holder Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea placing second in 36.86 and Arisa Go taking third in 37.06.
The 31-year-old Kodaira has won 21 consecutive 500-meter races, including 13 World Cup races.
“I wasn’t in my best form but I clocked my personal best which was good,” said Kodaira, who fell on a curve in the 1,000 a day earlier and finished last.
“I tried to grip the ice and imagine myself having the stability of a sports car (on the curves),” she said, adding that she felt light pain in her neck after the fall but it wasn’t serious enough to consider withdrawing.
Later in the day, Miho Takagi also won the women’s 1,500 meters in a Japan-record time for her third victory in as many events this season.
Takagi clocked 1 minute, 51.79 seconds to lead the 20-woman field, while Marrit Leenstra of the Netherlands came in second in 1:52.06 and Yekaterina Shikhova third in 1:53.52.
“I tried to limit using body power and tried to accelerate by finding rhythm on the ice. I hope to enjoy every one of the few races I have left,” Takagi said.
Kodaira, who had already secured a berth for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the 1,000 meters, met the qualifying standard for the 500 set by the Japan Skating Federation. Takagi secured her Olympic spot in the 1,500.
Both skaters are required to take part in the Olympic qualification meet that will be held in Nagano on Dec. 27-30.
It was Kodaira’s 16th career World Cup victory and Takagi’s sixth.
Elsewhere, Nana Takagi finished third for Japan’s best performance in the women’s mass start.
Takuro Oda was ninth in the men’s 1,500 meters won by Russia’s Denis Yuskov.
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