After two days of sovereign skating on home soil, the Japanese ladies were not able to collect more golds on the final day of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating first leg in Obihiro. Vanessa Herzog won the 1000m, while Esmee Visser clinched her career first World Cup victory in the 3000m, and Russia took home Team Sprint gold.
Herzog trumps Japanese ladies
Vanessa Herzog (AUT) wins 1000m in Obihiro 2018 ©International Skating Union (ISU)
Vanessa Herzog (AUT) defeated Nao Kodaira (JPN) and Miho Takagi (JPN) in a track record time of 1 minute and 14.56 seconds to win the ladies' 1000m. It was the third World Cup gold medal for the 23-year-old Austrian. She won the 500m and the 1000m in Erfurt last year, when the Japanese ladies were absent.
This time around Herzog had to beat them all, which proved to be difficult. In the third last pairing Kodaira was the first skater under 1:15, when she broke her own 2017 track record in 1:14.84. The Olympic 500m Champion was very fast in the first 600m, but her speed faded away in the final lap. In the penultimate pairing Takagi was 0.38 behind on Kodaira's time at the 600m split, but she finished 0.01 ahead.
Takagi's 1:14.83 was not enough however. Herzog hammered out a 27.0 first full lap facing Brittany Bowe (USA) in the final pair. She was 0.13 seconds faster than Kodaira at the 600m split and won another 0.15 seconds in the final lap. Bowe, who won Saturday's 1500m, had to settle for fourth place in 1:15.00.
Visser takes first Dutch gold
Esmee Visser (NED) won the first Dutch gold medal of the Obihiro World Cup in the ladies' 3000m. In the third pairing the 22-year-old Olympic 5000m champion started slower than compatriot Melissa Wijfje and had to hold back at the crossover to let Wijfje cross in front early on in the race. Halfway through the race Visser accelerated, while Wijfje was struggling to maintain her pace. Wijfje eventually finished in 4:07.15 to end up tenth. With 4:04.60 Visser was 0.31 faster than Ireen Wüst's 2014 track record.
Wüst herself skated in the penultimate pair in the ladies' endurance classic versus Martina Sáblíková (CZE). The two veterans fought a tough battle with Sáblíková eventually ending up on top in 4:05.23. The 31-year-old Czech clinched the bronze medal and Wüst came sixth in 4:06.13.
In the final pair Natalya Voronina (RUS) challenged Visser's 4:04, posting faster split times until the 2200m mark. The 24-year-old Russian couldn't keep up with Visser in the final two laps, but still took silver in 4:05.02.
Russia win Team Sprint
Japan were fast in the first pairing of the Team Sprint. Nao Kodaira stopped the clock at 1:27.35 after Konami Soga and Maki Tsuji had taken care of first and second lap duties. Only Russia managed to beat the home team. Last year's Team Sprint World Cup winners clocked 1:27.23 with Angelina Golikova, Olga Fatkulina, Yekaterina Shikhova in the final pairing to take gold.
Behind silver medalists Japan the Netherlands grabbed bronze, after an unbalanced race with Janine Smit starting to fast for Femke Beuling to follow. After Beuling had closed the gap and Smit waved off, Jutta Leerdam had to hold back behind Beuling before trying to make up time in the final lap. Leerdam crossed the line in 1:28.810.