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Nao Kodaira claims ninth national 500 meters title

Kyodo

Pyeongchang Olympic gold medalist Nao Kodaira won her ninth National Single Distance Championships title in the women’s 500 meters on Friday.

Kodaira crossed the line in 37.30 seconds at M-Wave ice arena for her fourth straight 500 victory at the annual meet. Miho Takagi, who won three medals at Pyeongchang, was runner-up 0.68 seconds behind.

The 32-year-old Kodaira, who opened her season earlier this month, extended her winning streak in the 500 to 29 straight races.

She said she was not worried about the competition despite hitting the ice for preseason training about a month later than planned due to the strong earthquake that hit Hokkaido in September.

“I knew I’d be able to skate like I always do if I’m physically prepared,” said Kodaira, whose goal of this season is to break the current 500 world record held by South Korea’s Lee Sang-hwa.

“I’m not in top shape as I was during the Olympics. I want to set my peak toward the end of the season by working out more and recall the techniques.”

At the Pyeongchang Olympics, Kodaira beat Lee to win the 500-meter gold.

In the women’s 3,000, Takagi clocked 4 minutes, 6.53 seconds and finished ahead of Ayano Sato for her third straight title.

“I think I’m doing pretty well. I can do a little better if I start training from here,” said Takagi, who in Pyeongchang claimed gold in team pursuit, silver in the 1,500 and bronze in the 1,000.