"I think she's the greatest skater at this very moment, but she's a bit more modest herself" said Japan coach Johan de Wit (NED) about Miho Takagi (JPN). His pupil may be modest, but she's far from subdued when she speaks with her blades. The 25-year-old from Obihiro won three distances at the ISU World Sprint Championships in Hamar, to hold both the World Sprint and the World Allround title on her list of honors. Last year's champion Nao Kodaira (JPN) took silver and Olga Fatkulina (RUS) bronze.
Meanwhile, Ireen Wüst (NED) took the lead in the ladies' Allround tournament, which started on Saturday. Ivanie Blondin (CAN) will start in second place and Melissa Wijfje (NED) in third in Sunday's 1500m.
Miho Takagi (JPN) 2020 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Sprint: Takagi solidifies lead in 500m
Defending World Sprint champion Nao Kodaira (JPN) bounced back from coming second in the first 500m on Friday, winning the shortest distance on Saturday. With 37.46 seconds in the final pairing versus Miho Takagi(JPN), the Olympic 500m champion was 0.07 faster than she had been the day before.
Takagi was 0.01 slower than she had been on Friday, but 37.52 was enough to stay well ahead of Kodaira in the rankings. Going into the final 1000m, the gap between them was 1.61 seconds.
"This time I really focused on 500m," Takagi said. "I don't have the experience like some others with the 500m. I tried to relax. Stay calm, I said to myself."
Behind the two Japanese skaters, Olga Fatkulina (RUS) and Angelina Golikova (RUS) were mixed up in a thrilling battle for third place. In Saturday's 500m Golikova beat Fatkulina in 37.57, to gain back 0.14 seconds on her compatriot. Fatkulina would enter the 1000m with an 0.11 second margin over her team-mate.
Sprint: No room for doubt in 1000m
In the conclusive 1000m, Takagi did not leave room for any doubt. With 1:13.93 she was the only one to skate under 1:14 in the double sprint distance.
Jutta Leerdam (NED) came second in 1:14.47, to end up fifth overall and Brittany Bowe (USA) was third in 1:14.56 to finish sixth in the ranking.
Kodaira could not threaten Takagi, coming sixth in the final distance, but with 1:14.88 she easily kept Fatkulina at bay for the overall silver. The Russian was fifth in the 1000m with 1:14.85, and held off compatriot Golikovafor the bronze medal.
Takagi becomes the first female skater to win both the World Sprint title and the World Allround title (which she won in 2018), since Anni Friesinger (GER) who won the World Sprint title in 2007 and the World Allround title in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
According to coach Johan de Wit she could have won the World Allround title too, if the tournament had not been held at the same time.
"[She could have won the World Allround Championships] easily," De Wit said.
"We made the choice [to skate the Sprint Championships] in December, because she was incredibly fast in the 1000m in Nagano [World Cup in December], when she beat [Nao] Kodaira with a big margin."
"She could've skated the Allround tournament and be way ahead of the rest after the 500m already, but choosing for the sprint, we thought: wouldn't it be great if she pulled that off?"
For Takagi the World Sprint title also meant redemption after a disappointing ISU World Single Distance Championships in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, when she had not been able to perform at top level due to a fever, and had to settle for individual bronze in the 1000m.
After winning in Hamar she said: "Very happy to win, but I really wanted to win at the World Single Distance Championships. That was my goal."
Ireen Wüst (NED) competes in the Ladies' 3000 Allround | 2020 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Allround: Wüst on top after two good races
The ladies' Allround tournament started with a 500m win for Karolina Bosiek (POL) in 38.76, but the Polish skater dropped to thirteenth place after the 3000m, in which she finished eighteenth with a time of 4:12.90.
Ireen Wüst (NED) was the most consistent skater on Saturday. With a fourth place (38.96) in the 500m and a third place (4:02.60) in the 3000m, the six-time champion led the overall ranking at the end of the day.
"Two good races today, but it's tight," Wüst said. "I don't know about my 5000m tomorrow, usually it's ok when my 3000m was good.
"But in an Allround tournament you always have to look at the next distance. That's the 1500m, and that's the distance in which I just won the world title two weeks ago."
Martina Sáblíková (CZE) won the 3000m in 4:01.89, but the five-time champion was not able to make up much for a poor outing in the 500m (eighteenth in 40.30). The five-time champion was tenth after two distances, trailing Wüst by 3.67 seconds for Sunday's 1500m.
"I still I don't think she's the main rival at the moment," Wüst said. "I have to fear the other two more."
By 'the other two', Wüst means Ivanie Blondin (CAN) and Melissa Wijfje (NED), who are second and third after Saturday's races. The Canadian is 0.66 behind and the Dutch 0.68.
Blondin is content and looking forward to Sunday. She said: "Hopefully two more great races. It's always been my dream to be on the podium at a World Championships and given the results from today, it might happen now. I'm still not safe yet and there's still a lot of racing to come."
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