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Japan women rewrite world record in team pursuit

Kyodo, AP

Japan won the women’s team pursuit event at a World Cup speedskating event on Friday, rewriting the world record it set last week by 3.01 seconds at the Utah Olympic Oval.

Miho Takagi, her sister Nana and Ayano Sato stormed to victory in 2 minutes, 50.87 seconds.

The Netherlands took the silver medal, finishing 4.70 seconds behind Japan, while Germany earned bronze in 2:56.14.

It is the third time Japan has won a World Cup event with a world record time in as many meets this season. The Takagi sisters and Ayaka Kikuchi set a world record of 2:53.88 last Saturday in Canada.

Miho Takagi, who competed in all three of the World Cup victories, expressed joy but still found room for improvement ahead of next year’s Pyeongchang Olympics.

“We all fulfilled our roles,” Takagi said. “I don’t remember the last part of the race because I was so absorbed in it.

“I still want to find more points where we can improve.

“This isn’t the Olympics, so I don’t have a sense of security or confidence (in winning).”

In the women’s 500 meters, Nao Kodaira won with a time of 36.50, breaking her own national record by 0.03 second. World-record holder Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea was runner-up (36.71) and Arisa Go (37.17) took third.

The 31-year-old Kodaira extended her winning streak in World Cup 500-meter events to 14 races. She has won 17 consecutive 500- and 1,000-meter World Cup events since last season.

“I thought I made a false start and I wasn’t sure about it up to the first 30 meters,” Kodaira said. “But I did my best.”

In the men’s team pursuit, Shane Williamson, Seitaro Ichinohe and Shota Nakamura extended Japan’s national record when they finished fourth in 3:37.08. Canada topped the podium in 3:36.44 followed by Italy and New Zealand.

Canadian Alex Boisvert-Lacroix won the men’s 500 in 34.15 seconds. Finland’s Mika Poutala was second in 34.17, and Dutchman Ronald Mulder followed in 34.22.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Mitchell Whitmore finished eighth with a time of 34.38 as he continues his comeback from an injury.

Whitmore, fractured his tailbone during a bicycle crash in Montana in August. He went through six weeks of limited training while the tailbone healed and now is working on getting back to the same strength level he had before the accident.

“The result was a little lower than I expected for that time,” Whitmore said. “Overall, it wasn’t a great race, but I was really happy my start was quicker. It’s been a struggle of mine since coming back from being hurt.”