Olympics / Winter Olympics / Speedskating

Miho Takagi shrugs off disappointment to target 1,500 gold

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Miho Takagi has put the disappointment of her result in the women’s speedskating 3,000 meters behind her as she bids for a gold medal as one of the favorites in the 1,500 on Monday.

Takagi missed the chance to give Japan its first Pyeongchang medal on Saturday night, a time of 4 minutes, 1.35 seconds good enough only for fifth place as Carlijn Achtereekte led the Netherlands to a clean sweep of the medals at Gangneung Oval.

Next up for Takagi, though, is her signature race. The 23-year-old is undefeated in the 1,500 in four World Cup events she has raced in this season.

“I don’t think I felt any special feelings at the start of the (3,000) race and probably wasn’t at 100 percent in practice (for that distance),” Takagi said, who notably recorded a personal best at the low-altitude rink.

“But I have come into these Olympics with more focus and more finely tuned than I have at any other event. I have had a more positive image in my mind of the way I have practiced over shorter distances and it is important to regroup.”

Takagi burst onto the scene as a schoolgirl and made her Olympic debut at the age of 15 at the Vancouver Games in 2010.

Heartbreak was to follow four years later, however, as she failed to make the Japanese team for the Sochi Olympics.

Also entered in the 1,000 meters and the mass start, Takagi now says she is simply thankful to have more than one crack at an individual medal.

“This is a completely different Olympics (to Vancouver), obviously my age being a factor,” she said. “I have three more (individual) events to challenge in and having that chance is something to be grateful for.”

Victory would see Takagi become only the second Japanese speedskater to win a gold medal at the Winter Games, after Hiroyasu Shimizu’s triumph in the men’s 500 in Nagano in 1998.

Heather Bergsma of the United States won this event at Monday’s venue at the 2017 world single distance championships. The last reigning world champion to claim the Olympic title in this event was Canada’s Cindy Klassen in 2006.

Jorien ter Mors led the Netherlands to a 1-2-3 finish at the 2014 Sochi Olympics ahead of Ireen Wust and Lotte van Beek.

Wust took the silver medal in the 3,000 on Saturday. She has won a record-equaling nine medals in speedskating and could surpass Germany’s Claudia Pechstein (also nine) for most all-time among men and women.