Arisa Go earned herself a spot on Japan’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympic team by finishing behind World Cup sensation Nao Kodaira, who had already secured her ticket, in the women’s 500 meters at a qualifying meet on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old Go, who has four third-place finishes this year on the World Cup circuit, crossed the finish line in a personal-best 37.40 seconds to clinch her first Olympic berth.
“It’s a good thing I gave it my all,” Go said. “I was really nervous. (But) I was able to keep my head in the race.
“I’m so looking forward to the Olympics. I’m going to practice aggressively and not hold back.”
Kodaira won in 37.13 seconds, rewriting her record for fastest women’s 500 time in Japan. It was her 24th straight victory over 500 meters, although she failed to break 37 seconds.
“I played it safe,” last season’s 500-meter World Cup champion said.
Kodaira, who broke the 1,000-meter world record earlier this month, was already guaranteed a berth for the Olympics in South Korea provided she competed in the three-day qualifying meet.
In the men’s 500, Tsubasa Hasegawa, Daichi Yamanaka and Joji Kato filled the three berths available by finishing in the top three.
Hasegawa clocked a record domestic time of 34.60 seconds to win, with Yamanaka finishing second in 34.680 and Kato taking third in 34.683. The 32-year-old Kato will be competing in his fourth straight Olympics.
Hasegawa has been in poor form this season, and the result may signal a road to redemption for the 27-year-old.
“I don’t remember when I was so focused,” said Hasegawa, after breaking Kato’s domestic speed record.
Miho Takagi, who like Kodaira had already earned a spot on the Olympic team in the women’s 1,500, won the 3,000 in 4 minutes, 6.55 seconds. Ayano Sato finished second to make a case for a spot in Pyeongchang.
“It’s good to have earned a spot as No. 1,” said Takagi, who expressed a mild amount of surprise at the result at a weaker distance for her.
“I’m a little taken back and don’t want to make a big deal about it, but now I’m going to have to want to win (gold).”
The final race of the day, the men’s 5,000, was won by Seitaro Ichinohe.
The official entry list of 10 female skaters and eight male skaters will be announced on Saturday, the final day of the meet.
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