CHANGCHUN, CHINA - Nao Kodaira set a rink record in her pet event Saturday despite battling a cold on the opening day of the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships.
The 31-year-old won the 500-meter race at Jilin Provincial Speed Skating Rink in 37.23 seconds. She captured the gold in that event at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Kodaira extended her unbeaten run over the distance to 26 races. Kodaira, who also took silver in the 1,000 at the Olympics, finished fourth over the longer distance in Changchun, clocking 1 minute, 15.68 seconds.
The 31-year-old Kodaira holds the lead in the two-day event, in which competitors must race four times, twice each over the two distances, to determine an overall winner.
“I felt like I had a cold since (the previous day) and didn’t have much strength, but I was still able to skate the 500 meters in a reasonably good time,” Kodaira said.
“It was hard to breathe in the second half of the 1,000 meters. I want to race right until the end every time.”
Pyeongchang 1,000-meter gold medalist Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands is currently in second place.
Daichi Yamanaka and Tsubasa Hasagawa are 10th and 16th, respectively, in the men’s event led by Norway’s Havard Lorentzen, who won gold in the 500 and silver in the 1,000 at the Winter Games.