The Japanese ladies gave the home crowd two gold medals to cheer for at the start of the 2018-2019 ISU World Cup Speed Skating season in Obihiro on Friday. Nao Kodaira won the 500m, while Ayano Sato and the Takagi-sisters Miho and Nana dominated the Team Pursuit.
Starting versus Germany in the final pair of the Team Pursuit, the Olympic Champions skated like a well-oiled machine. They were more than a second faster than Germany in each half lap and chased their opponents down quickly, to even overtake them in the final lap. It was Japan's eighth consecutive Team Pursuit victory in the World Cup. The last World Cup race Japan did not win, was when they came second to the Netherlands in Nagano 2016. After Russia and the Netherlands had already set new track records, the home team brought the Obihiro mark down to 2 minutes and 57.80 seconds.
The Dutch ladies came second in 3:00.13. Ireen Wüst was the only lady in the team who also skated in the silver medal PyeongChang Olympic squad. She was accompanied by Lotte van Beek and youngster Joy Beune. The orange team defeated Canada, who came fourth in 3:01.46. Russia (Yevgenia Lalenkova, Natalya Voronina and Elizaveta Kazelina) came third in 3:01.11.
Nao Kodaira (JPN) wins 500m at the World Cup in Obihiro ©International Skating Union (ISU)
Miss-stroke doesn't hurt Kodaira
Kodaira confirmed her status as empress of the ladies' sprint, winning the 500m in 37.49. The Olympic Champion hammered out a 10.34 second opener and despite a miss-stroke on the final straight she concluded with a 27.1 second full lap to come out on top.
Vanessa Herzog (AUT) was the only other lady to break the 38 second barrier. With 27.0 the European 500m Champion had a faster full lap than Kodaira, but it was not enough to make up for the time she lost in her 10.59 opener. With 10.33 Maki Tsuji (JPN) had the fastest opener of the day. She followed up with a 27.7 full lap to end up in third place.
Japan chase down Germany at the Obihiro World Cup ©International Skating Union (ISU)