Calgary / Canada

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The Japanese ladies are on fire this season and they showed it again in the Team Pursuit at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Calgary on Saturday. They broke their own world record to add another gold to their impressive tally.

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Japan (Miho Takagi, Nana Takagi and Ayaka Kikuchi) faced the Netherlands (Antoinette de Jong, Marrit Leenstra and Lotte van Beek) in the final pairing.

Both teams were on pace to break the world record (2:55.77) that Nana Takagi, Miho Takagi and Ayano Sato had set three weeks ago in Heerenveen. Japan kept the Dutch ladies at bay, heading into the final 200m with a 1.29 second advantage.

But misfortune struck for the Netherlands when Van Beek crashed on her way to the finish line and Japan crossed first in 2:53.88.

Not perfect yet

The Japanese ladies have won the Team Pursuit World Cup title for the past two years but they have stepped up their game again this season.

“We have trained together for years now and we have all improved individually this year,” Miho Takagi said.

She did not want to look forward to what is in store for next week’s World Cup event in Salt Lake City.

“I don’t know who will skate next week. This race was not perfect yet. The last time we skated in this particular line-up was three years ago and we were not able to execute everything perfectly today.

“We have four members in our team and we want to bring it up to a level where it doesn’t matter for the outcome in which line-up we actually skate.”

Olympic concerns for Dutch ladies

Dutch national coach Geert Kuipers was disappointed about the crash.

“It’s not as easy as everybody always seems to think,” he said.

“We couldn’t train much in this line-up together because we only heard that Ireen [Wüst] would not be able to skate late last week.

“For Lotte [van Beek], it was four years ago since she last participated in this team. I could blame her for everything, but that doesn’t help. She skated a fantastic race until she crashed. What can you say?

“We skated on national record pace. The result is quite annoying, especially because we’re not yet sure of Olympic qualification because of that.”

Japan leads World Cup ranking

Germany’s Claudia Pechstein, Roxane Dufter and Gabriele Hirschbichler took silver in 2:56.76, and Canada’s Ivanie Blondin, Kali Christ and Isabelle Weidemann collected bronze in 2:56.80.

Japan leads the World Cup ranking with an immaculate record, ahead of Canada and Germany. The Netherlands are seventh. The first six teams qualify directly for the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Full results and classifications. Follow the discussion on social media by using #WCSpeedSkating and #SpeedSkating and watch the live stream on the ISU Skating Channel.