Miho Takagi (JPN) claimed her first 3000m World Cup win in a Japanese national record time of 3 minutes and 57.09 seconds at the Calgary Olympic Oval on Friday. Dutch pair Antoinette de Jong and Ireen Wüst finished second and third.
Takagi won the first two 1500m World Cup races this season, in Heerenveen and Stavanger, but had never taken gold over the longer distance.
“My body is a little bit stronger than last season, and I am more motivated than last year,” she said.
Takagi started in the fourth pairing against compatriot Fuyo Matsuoka, whom she quickly left behind.
Wüst had clocked 3:58.10 in the third pairing and Takagi initially did not seem to be a threat for first place.
At the 2200m mark, the Japanese skater was still 0.75 seconds behind, but Wüst could not maintain her pace in the final two laps and Takagi reeled her in.
De Jong faced World Cup leader Ivanie Blondin (CAN) in the final pairing. The Dutch skater was one second behind after the first full lap but kept Takagi’s time in sight, only to come up 0.69 seconds short in a personal best 3:58.10 at the finish line.
“I wanted to start well with a 30.6 first full lap,” she said. “I managed to build a good race from there but unfortunately that 30.6 was just a little too slow.
“My personal best was 3:59.49, so you know it’s going to be tough when you see 3:57 on the scoreboard. It’s fun to set a new personal best and I’ve shown to be among the best in the 3000m.”
De Jong was not surprised by Takagi’s victory.
“She’s really good at the moment. Her technique is good and if you’ve got enough stamina you can skate a very good 3000m.
“We [the Dutch girls] just face tough new competition.”
Blondin had to bow her head early to finish in 4:04.15 for 10th place.
De Jong took the overall lead in the 3000/5000m World Cup standings. She won the 3000m in Heerenveen and was eighth in the 5000m in Stavanger. Claudia Pechstein, who won in Stavanger, is second and Blondin third.