The Japanese ladies struck again with gold in the Team Pursuit and the 500m on the first day of competition in the second leg of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating at the Tomakomai Highland Sports Center.
Ninth consecutive gold for Japan
They entered the rink with long winter coats to stay warm, but once the coats were gone they skated like lightning again. Together with Ayano Sato, the Takagi sisters Miho and Nana handed Japan a ninth consecutive World Cup win in the Ladies' Team Pursuit on the cold and sunny outdoor ice in Tomakomai.
Japan, skating in the same line-up as in Obihiro last week, took on the Netherlands in the final pairing and they stopped the clock at 3 minutes and 2.37 seconds. With Antoinette de Jong instead of Ireen Wüst to accompany Joy Beune and Lotte van Beek, the Dutch were on podium pace in the first half of their race but dropped back to end up fourth in 3:07.93.
Canada's Ivanie Blondin, Isabelle Weidemann and Keri Morrison, who had come fourth in Obihiro, took silver in 3:05.95 and jumped to joint second place in the World Cup ranking together with the Netherlands. Russia didn't change their line-up either. Yevgenia Lalenkova, Natalya Voronina and Elizaveta Kazelina again took bronze in 3:06.69 and dropped to fourth place in the ranking.
Japanese ladies on their way to gold in Tomakomai ©International Skating Union (ISU)
Nao Kodaira (JPN) took her 18th 500m World Cup gold medal leaving her closest rival almost half a second behind. Vanessa Herzog (AUT) came close to Kodaira at last week's World Cup in Obihiro. In Tomakomai, the Austrian European 500m Champion started in the final pairing versus Angelina Golikova (RUS). She was 0.53 seconds faster than her pair mate, and 0.30 seconds faster than Daria Kachanova (RUS), who ended up taking the bronze, but Kodaira had set the bar at an unattainable 38.03 seconds in the penultimate pairing. Herzog took her third silver behind the Japanese Empress.
Behind Kodaira and Herzog Olga Fatkulina (RUS) climbed to third in the World Cup ranking after ending up in fourth place with 38.83. Kachanova climbed to joint fourth place with Golikova, who finished sixth in Tomakomai.
Herzog, Kodaira and Kachanova in Tomakomai ©International Skating Union (ISU)