GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Miho Takagi arrived in South Korea amid much media hype about her chances for gold in women’s speedskating at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
But it was her elder sister Nana who stole the headlines on Saturday night when she won the inaugural women’s mass start to become the first Japanese woman to win multiple gold medals in any sport at the Winter Olympics.
With her victory beside Miho and Ayano Sato on Wednesday in the team pursuit, Nana also is the first Japanese athlete to finish a Winter Games with two gold medals since ski jumper Kazuyoshi Funaki did the same at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
“Obviously, I wanted to get two gold medals, but I really never imagined that I would. My feeling right now is one of disbelief,” said Takagi, who finished 12th in the 5,000 meters earlier in the games.
The 25-year-old could not resist a playful jab at her sister when asked how she felt about winning one more gold than Miho.
“I think I have been able to show there is a Nana Takagi here too, not just a Miho,” said the mass start silver medalist at last year’s single-distance championships.
“I have delivered and won this gold medal in a new event, having not been able to seriously compete in the other individual event (I entered).”
Miho burst onto the scene as a teenager and made her Winter Olympic debut at age 15 at the Vancouver Games in 2010.
Although she missed out on place at the Sochi Olympics four years later she was tipped as a possible gold medal candidate in the Pyeongchang 1,500 thanks to her strong form on the World Cup circuit this season.
The middle-to-long distance specialist Miho managed silver in the 1,500, bronze in the 1,000, as well as fifth in the 3,000.
Although Nana, who was 32nd in the 1,500 and fourth in the team pursuit in her first Winter Olympics in Sochi, admitted she hated being in her sister’s considerable shadow, she said her younger sister’s efforts here gave her some extra motivation.
“She is my little sister so I want to win and I don’t want to be second best to her. But at the same time I have been beside her watching how much of an effort she has made here,” she said.
“I am proud of my little sister, she won two individual medals and that fired me up.”
Saturday’s mass start was, unusually for speed skating, full of thrills and spills, but an injury to Sato following a crash in the second semifinal earlier in the evening meant Takagi was flying solo in the final.
“If Ayano had been racing, we could have worked out a plan to aim for a 1-2 finish, so I’m disappointed we could not do that. But I had to go it alone and tried to make that extra push for her,” said Takagi.
“The mass start event started after Sochi and you need to be smart and you need to be tactical, but I am sure it is fun event for people to watch.”