TOMAKOMAI, HOKKAIDO – Nao Kodaira won her 32nd straight women’s 500-meter race on Friday, while Tatsuya Shinhama won his first speedskating World Cup competition over the same distance as Japan won three gold medals on Friday.
The 22-year-old Shinhama joined a quartet of Pyeongchang Olympic champions on the podium’s top step as Japan took three of the gold medals on offer on the opening day of the meet on an outdoor oval, with one second-place finish and a third.
Shinhama, competing in just his third World Cup race, earned the first victory by a Japanese man on the World Cup circuit since December 2013, when Keiichiro Nagashima won over 500 meters.
Olympic champions Ayano Sato and sisters Miho and Nana Takagi started the gold rush at Tomakomai Highland Sports Center by winning Japan’s ninth straight World Cup women’s team pursuit competition. The trio won in 3 minutes, 2.370 seconds, 3.58 ahead of second-place Canada. Russia was third.
“It’s good to win,” Nana Takagi said after the team made adjustments to their tactics to deal with more varied conditions faced outdoors. “We raced our way, and won the race and we learned from that.
“At the World Single Distance Championships (in February), we want to show that we’re strong enough to beat anyone anywhere.”
Japan then earned a podium finish in men’s team pursuit as Seitaro Ichinohe, Ryosuke Tsuchiya and Shane Williamson finished 1.30 seconds back of the Netherlands. The Dutch, who were first last week in Obihiro, Hokkaido, won in 3:45.870, with Norway pipping Japan by .02 to take second.
Kodaira then took center stage, winning the women’s 500 in a track-record 38.030, 0.49 ahead of Austria’s Vanessa Herzog. Russia’s Daria Kachanova was third another 0.30 back.
Shinhama outdueled compatriot Yuma Murakami to take the gold in the men’s 500-meter sprint in a track-record 35.450, with Murakami second, 0.08 back. Dutchman Jan Smeekens was third in 35.58, leaving Ryohei Haga fourth in 35.700 and preventing a Japanese sweep.
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