AMSTERDAM - Miho Takagi became the first Japanese woman to win the speedskating allround world championships after beating defending champion Ireen Wust in a thrilling 1,500-meter race on Saturday.
The 1,500 win was partial revenge for Takagi, who had to settle for silver behind Wust over the same distance at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“I am very, very happy,” Takagi said. “I am proud.”
The world title capped a great season for Takagi, who also won an Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit, when Japan beat the Netherlands in the final, and took bronze in the 1,000.
“She has shown all season that she’s really good,” Wust said. “She has more speed than me.”
Wust won the closing 5,000 to finish second overall, falling just short in her chase for a seventh allround title. Fellow Dutchwoman Annouk van der Weijden ended up third.
Takagi, who also won gold in the team pursuit and bronze in the 1,000 in Pyeongchang, came into the second day of the three-day worlds as the points leader after winning the 500 and taking second in the 3,000 behind Wust on Friday.
“I feel fortunate just to have been able to enjoy the races and tournament. I’m filled with happiness after winning the championships,” Takagi said.
Wust, who also won silvers in the 3,000 and team pursuit in Pyeongchang, was just 0.86 of a point behind Takagi due to a disappointing ninth-place finish in the 500 on Friday.
Takagi is the first Japanese to win a tournament that has men’s events dating back to the 1800s. Keiji Shirahata took second in the men’s in 1995 and 1997, while Seiko Hashimoto finished second in the women’s in 1990.
In the men’s competition, Dutch skater Sven Kramer is gunning for his 10th allround title, and faces a tough challenge from training partner Patrick Roest and Norwegian Sverre Lunde Pedersen.
Roest won the opening 500 in 36.97 and Pedersen edged Kramer in the 5,000, winning in 6 minutes, 33.81 seconds. Those results left Roest atop the overall standings, Pedersen in second, and Kramer third ahead of the 1,500 and 10,000 races on Sunday.
The championships are a test of skaters’ all-round prowess, with races over 500, 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 meters for women and 500, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters for men.