The Japanese ladies ruled with six out of eight gold medals at the opening leg of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating season in Heerenveen. Japan coach Johan de Wit (NED) knew that his skaters were good, but not how good. He insists that Japan did not plan to peak at the first World Cup.
“This is just one tournament, the winter is still very long and the Olympic Games are in February,” De Wit said.
“I’m happy with what we did, but we did not aim to peak here. We just finished an intense training period and we’re still getting over a jetlag. There’s room for improvement.“
Johan de Wit
In Heerenveen Nao Kodaira dominated the two 500m races and the 1000m, while Miho Takagi took the honors in the 1500m and Ayano Sato clinched the Mass Start victory. On Friday the Japanese ladies also won the Team Pursuit.
Kodaira, who won all 500m races she skated last season, went on where she left off in March. De Wit doesn’t want to take credit for her success:
“Of course I’m very happy with that, but Nao trains with the sprint selection and not with me. On the other side we also have success in the Team Pursuit and with Miho Takagi and they train with me.”
The Dutch coach has trained the Japanese ladies since the start of the 2015/16 season.
“These results don’t come out of the blue. We have already won the Team Pursuit World Cup twice”, he said.
“Over the past two years we have shown that we are getting there and we have made another small step. I had expected us to be better than last year, but yes, I’m surprised about how fast we have skated this weekend.”
The Team Pursuit ladies outclassed silver medal winning home team the Netherlands by a 3.29 second-margin, clocking 2 minutes, and 55.77 seconds.
“Our goal was a time of 2.57, so we went a little faster. We worked hard for this and to our advantage our team can always train together, so we can dedicate a lot of time to this event. That pays off.”
Not good enough for Olympics
De Wit says that training to become better, is more important than winning at the moment:
“It’s nice to win here, but that’s not really what’s on my mind right now. We still have to work on many things.
“What we have shown here, is not good enough for Olympic gold, especially in the Team Pursuit. I think we still have to become better in all events.”
Despite Ayano Sato’s Mass Start win, De Wit was critical of the team performance:
“Everyone has to live up to commitments and we have to improve tactically. In the Mass Start only one skater wins, but it’s a team effort. So we make appointments beforehand and one should trust another to live up to these appointments.
“Sometimes things are well-prepared but not so well-executed. That’s what we evaluate afterwards.”
Although De Wit was satisfied with the results in Heerenveen, he did not want rest on his laurels:
“The real prices are awarded in February [at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games], everyone knows that. There’s no excuse, if we will skate worse in PyeongChang than we did here, we will have done a bad job.”