Olympic Champion Nao Kodaira powers to victory in the 500m at Thialf Ice Arena 2019©OLAF KRAAK/AFP/Getty Images
Nao Kodaira (JPN) has laid a solid foundation to win a second World Sprint title in Heerenveen. The 2017 World Sprint Champion leads after the first day of the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships, with compatriot and surprise rival Miho Takagi 0.26 seconds behind in second place. Brittany Bowe (USA) and Vanessa Herzog (AUT) are in third and fourth position.
Kodaira (JPN) drew first blood winning the 500m in 37.27 seconds. The Olympic Champion, who lost her 2017 World Distance title to Herzog two weeks ago in Inzell (GER), was glad to take revenge.
"I was heartbroken in Inzell," she said. "I suffered from pain in my hip. The pain is still there, but a lot less than two weeks ago. I'm happy to be able to skate for the top of the podium again."
Kodaira skated in the final pair, after Herzog had already finished in 37.31 seconds. The 500m World Champion came second in the distance on Saturday. Angelina Golikova (RUS) took third place in 37.49.
Takagi was the biggest surprise of the day. The 2018 World Allround Champion has set her sights on retaining her World Allround title in Calgary (CAN) next week, while also trying to get on the podium in Heerenveen this week. With a personal best of 37.62 Takagi took fourth place in the 500m, only 0.34 seconds behind Kodaira.
Miho Takagi was the surprise package on day one in Heerenveen 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
In the 1000m Takagi finished in 1:14.82 to take second place, reducing the time gap for the second 500m on Sunday to 0.26 seconds.
"I wanted to try to skate the World Sprint Championships together with the World Allround Championships in one year and this is the final year that it's possible," said Takagi. (In the 2019/2020 season both tournaments will be held at one location on the same weekend.)
Takagi's coach Johan de Wit (NED) was a little surprised by his skater's fast 500m time, insisting that the World Allround title is still her prime focus.
"We prepared for the World Allround Championships and it would have been better to have been in Calgary already," he said. "But Miho really wanted to skate here. She wants to become World Sprint Champion. Beforehand you might have doubted whether that was realistic, but she's on the right track so who knows."
Only three ladies managed to skate under 1:15. Kodaira came fourth in 1:15.01, which was enough to retain the lead in the overall standings. Russia's Daria Kachanova came third in 1:14.94 to take fifth place overall after two distances.
Brittany Bowe won the 1000m despite not being satisfied with her speed 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Bowe, who won the longer distance in 1:14.60, said: "I wouldn’t have bet a penny that the winning time would have been a 1:14.60 today (Bowe's own Heerenveen track record is 1:13.24). That was a little strange. I would have liked to go a little bit faster, but overall I'm pleased with my results today and I always do better the second day."
Bowe is 0.42 seconds behind Kodaira and 0.16 behind Takagi for the second 500m on Sunday and fourth-ranked Herzog is only 0.01 behind Bowe.