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Ireen Wust shocks Miho Takagi to take women’s 1,500

Kyodo

Heavy favorite Miho Takagi was beaten to the gold medal by Ireen Wust in the women’s 1,500 meters speedskating at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Monday. Wust, of the Netherlands, reclaimed the gold she first won in the distance at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Wust’s time of 1 minute, 54.35 seconds was 0.20 of a second faster than the Japanese silver medalist who had been completely dominant on the World Cup circuit this season. The Netherlands’ Marrit Leenstra finished third with a time of 1:55.26.

Takagi’s compatriot Nao Kodaira clocked 1:56.11, good enough to see her hold the lead for a time before she slipped down the order to finish sixth.

Takagi, who outpaced American world record holder Heather Bergsma in the final pairing of the evening, said her tears of joy at winning a medal quickly started to sting when she realized how close she had come to gold.

“When I saw the time I felt delighted that I had won a medal, but when I realized how narrow the margin was between the gold and silver, I felt I could have done better,” said Takagi, who is unbeaten in four 1,500 races on the World Cup circuit this season.

“It was then that it hit me that I had missed out on the gold and I started to feel crushed. The tears running down my face were more out of frustration than happiness,” the 23-year-old from Hokkaido said. “But in saying that, I’d like to think I have come a long way.”

Ever the competitor, Takagi said she would continue to be confident with more races on the horizon.

“The competition isn’t over, so I have to prepare to have even better races in the 1,000 and team pursuit,” she said.

“I have to be proud that I was able to finish in the highest position I could reach.”

Wust, naturally, was delighted.

“It’s 12 years since my first gold medal in Turin, my fifth gold medal, my 10th Olympic medal,” she said, referring to her collection of medals that began at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. “I started my own team three years ago with only one goal, win the gold in the Olympics again. It worked out this way and it’s incredible.”

For Leenstra, winning a medal gave her a sense of relief.

“I’ve been fourth many times, and also four years ago (in Sochi). I worked really hard for it in the last two years. I did everything I could to be good for this Olympics, and finally it pays off,” she said.

Japan’s Ayaka Kikuchi, skating in the penultimate pairing, finished 16th in 1:58.92.