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Miho Takagi surges ahead at world championships

KYODO

Miho Takagi took a big lead over six-time champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands after the first races of the three-day World Allround Speed Skating Championships on Friday.

Takagi clocked 39.01 seconds in the women’s 500 meters on the outdoor track in the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, the only skater to go under 40 seconds, but Wust set the fastest time in the 3,000 to move up to second behind Takagi in the overall point standings.

In the 500, Gabriele Hirschbichler of Germany came home second in 40.22 and Wust was 1.80 seconds behind Takagi in ninth place after a bad start in the rainy and relatively warm conditions. Aya Kikuchi finished third in 40.32.

In the 3,000, Olympic gold medalist and defending world champion Wust bounced back with a time of 4:15.80, nearly four seconds clear of Takagi who finished second in 4:19.78. Veteran Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic took third in 4:21.05.

“I didn’t care if it rained or not, I told myself I will do this,” said Takagi, who won three medals at the recent Pyeongchang Olympics — gold in the team pursuit, silver in the 1,500 and bronze in the 1,000.

“Wust was looking hot out there so she got me pumped up.”

The women’s competition concludes Saturday with the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, but with warm weather forecast for the weekend, track conditions may suffer. The men’s 500 and 5,000 races will be held Saturday and 1,500 and 10,000 on Sunday.

After the first evening of racing, Takagi tops the 23-woman standings with 82.306 points, Wust is second (83.443), fellow Dutch Antoinette de Jong third (84.310) and Kikuchi fourth (84.321). The final results are determined by the total points after races over four distances.