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Nao Kodaira pushes 500-meter win streak to 34

Kyodo

Nao Kodaira extended her winning streak to 34 straight races with a gold-medal 500-meter sprint performance at a World Cup event in the Netherlands on Saturday.

The 32-year-old clocked 37.17 seconds around the oval at the sea-level Thialf arena in Heerenveen and shaved 0.12 off the previous track record she set last year.

“It was a normal time. I’ve been doing well in practice, so I wanted to show off a bit more in the race,” said Kodaira, whose personal best at the distance is 36.50.

“My (World Cup) debut was also in Heerenveen, so the crowd was really cheering me on when I was skating. No matter when I race, skating here is a little bit different.”

Austria’s Vanessa Herzog took silver with 37.23 and Brittany Bowe of the United States won bronze in 37.70.

Kodaira, who claimed gold in the 500 and silver in the 1,000 at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics earlier this year, picked up her 25th World Cup victory, including wins over 1,000.

In the men’s 500, Tsubasa Hasegawa (34.52), Yuma Murakami (34.55) and Tatsuya Shinhama (34.64) took second, third and fourth, respectively.

Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov skated to gold in 34.49 and won his third straight race.

In other events, Pyeongchang Olympic gold medalist Nana Takagi claimed her second World Cup victory of the season in the women’s mass start. Hometown favorite Irene Schouten took the silver medal and Ayano Sato skated to a third-place finish and the bronze medal.

“The goal was for (Sato and I) to both get on the podium and we managed to do it well,” said Takagi. “After experiencing how different races unfold, my ability to respond and adapt is getting stronger.”