Japan’s Miho Takagi was unable to keep pace after a decent start and finished fifth in the speed skating women’s 3,000 meters at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Saturday.
Aiming for Japan’s first medal of the games, Takagi was instead overshadowed by Carlijn Achtereekte, who led a podium sweep by the Netherlands.
“If I am honest, I am disappointed with fifth place as I was going for a medal, but I don’t think the way I raced has left me with any regrets,” said Takagi, who became the first Japanese to win a 3,000 title on the World Cup circuit in Calgary in December.
Achtereekte, an unheralded skater on the World Cup circuit, clocked 3 minutes, 59.21 seconds to take gold ahead of two-time 3,000 Olympic champion Ireen Wust and Antoinette de Jong.
“A gold medal, it’s an incredible feeling. I cannot believe it right now. It was so good a race. I skate so good,” said Achtereekte.
“I was always skating 5,000 and I was getting better on the 3,000, but I qualified for this one. I feel so good and I thought I have to skate the best race of my life and I did it and I won. That’s incredible.”
Achtereekte, in the fifth pairing alongside Poland’s Karolina Bosiek, said being in the early pairs had helped.
“For me, it’s easier because you can skate your own flow and focus on yourself and I started and it went perfectly what I had in my head: the plan, the rounds and the times and how I have to skate.”
Wust, who won the 3,000 at the world single distance championships in 3:59.05 at the same Gangneung Oval a year ago, crossed the finish line in 3:59.29 to take silver. De Jong was third in 4:00.02.
“I’m feeling OK, a little disappointed it was not good. I was on schedule for the gold but the last lap was too hard and I didn’t make it,” said Wust.
“I have to be happy and I will be happy with silver, but I came for gold so it’s a little disappointing. It was a hard one. I started really good.”
De Jong said, “It was not a really, really good race but it was good enough for third place. I had a good fight with Miho. It was a good race. We fight together and that was nice but I didn’t skate my own race for the whole race. That was a little bit stupid for myself.”
Takagi finished in 4:01.35, while compatriot Ayano Sato was eighth in 4:04.35. Japan’s Ayaka Kikuchi was 19th in 4:13.25.
“I just don’t think I had the ability on this (Olympic) stage to make the medals podium and I am just going to accept this result,” said Takagi.
Takagi still has multiple chances to win an individual medal. She will compete in her favored 1,500 on Monday, a distance she is unbeaten in four races on the World Cup circuit this season, the 1,000 and the mass start.
“I’ve skated the 3,000 and I feel I can do a bit better and want to go into the 1,500 even more determined. I have started in a good frame of mind and that makes my preparations more important,” she said. “I probably wasn’t in my absolute best shape in practice as far as the 3,000 is concerned and it is important now to shift (my focus) to the next race.”