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Nana Takagi zooms to gold in women’s mass start final

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Japan’s Nana Takagi won the gold medal in the women’s mass start final at Gangneung Oval on Saturday night.

The gold was the second here for Takagi, who also picked up one in Japan’s victory in the team pursuit on Wednesday night.

She is the only woman two get two golds in speedskating here and the first Japanese athlete to pocket two golds at the same Winter Games since Kazuyoshi Funaki in ski jumping in 1998 in Nagano.

Takagi, a 25-year-old from Makubetsu, Hokkaido, earned a total of 60 points for the triumph in the new event that was introduced at the Pyeongchang Games.

South Korea’s Kim Bo-reum claimed the silver medal with 40 points, while Irene Schouten of the Netherlands captured the bronze at 20 points.

Takagi and the other top seven finishers in the contest were credited with a time of 8 minutes, 33.30 seconds.

“I’m feeling very good,” Takagi stated. “I only lost focus on two laps. Then I showed good acceleration. Then with 100 meters — go.”

Takagi leaped up onto the podium to received her gold in the medal ceremony following the event.

“I’m very happy. I focused on the team pursuit and mass start,” Takagi commented. “Team pursuit, mass start, gold medals.”

Takagi’s younger sister Miho is taking home three medals after getting the silver in the 1,500 meters, bronze in the 1,000 and gold in the team pursuit.

“I’m really happy that I can end the Olympics in such a wonderful way,” Nana Takagi said. “Now, I haven’t got that many rood results in individual disciplines, so I want to become an athlete as good as my littler sister.”

Takagi cited the backing of her teammates as being key to her victory.

“We got a gold in team pursuit, we did it by all of our strengths,” Nana Takagi noted. “That really gave me a lot of support. I was very calm going into the mass start. I have worked together with all my teammates.”

The final of the mass start featured 16 skaters all in the same 16-lap race of 6,400 meters.

Skaters in the mass start can earn points every four laps when there are sprints during the race. First place is worth five points, second place three points and third place one point.

In the last sprint the top three skaters across the line get 60, 40 and 20 points.

Takagi finished fifth in her semifinal with a time of 8 minutes, 55.14 seconds with five sprint points.

Kim was overjoyed with her silver medal on home ice.

“I am very happy with this medal,” Kim said. “I will treasure this medal forever. Ever since when I started at 14 or 15, I wanted to get a medal and I am very happy to get this medal for my country.”

Takagi’s teammate Ayano Sato fell after a collision with Canada’s Ivanie Blondin and finished 12th in her semifinal.

“As I was trying to get the points, the Canadian athlete lost her balance and fell and the consequence is I fell with her,” Sato said. “I have pain in my left elbow and I am really, really disappointed. I am not upset with her at all. Had I made an adjustment a bit earlier, I could not have fallen with her.”

Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon took the gold medal in the men’s mass start final. Bart Swings of Belgium collected the silver, while Dutch skater Koen Verweij secured the bronze.

Japan’s Shane Williamson finished 11th in a time of 7:46.19.