Nao Kodaira cruised to her second World Sprint title in Heerenveen 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Nao Kodaira won her second World Sprint Title on Sunday in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, where the Japanese star feels at home having lived and trained in the country between 2014 and 2016. Kodaira's compatriot, World Allround Champion Miho Takagi, took a surprise silver medal and birthday girl Brittany Bowe (USA) claimed the bronze as the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships came to an end.
Kodaira started the second 500m of the weekend with a 0.26 lead over Takagi and the Olympic Champion increased the gap with a smooth race in 37.41. Despite being 0.14 slower than Saturday, the 2017 World Sprint Champion won the race, with Bowe coming second in 37.67. Angelina Golikova (RUS) came third in the first distance in Sunday on 37.71.
Bowe, who beat Vanessa Herzog (AUT) in the penultimate 500m pairing, said: "The 500m was probably the best I've had all season, so I'm super pumped on that." The American 2015 and 2016 Champion, who turned 31 on Sunday, did not catch up with Takagi in the rankings, however. The Japanese skater finished fourth in the 500m in a personal best of 37.74, and later won the 1000m.
In the longer race Kodaira defended her overall leading position relatively easily, coming third to take her second World Sprint title. "I knew I had a 1.17 gap and I just thought, keep calm and don't make any mistakes," she said.
"This is a dream come true. To become World Champion in Thialf stadium, fantastic. I feel a bit Dutch. My heart is a little bit orange and to see so many people in the stands here, it's so beautiful."
Miho Takagi headed straight to Canada from Heerenveen to defend her World Allround title 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Takagi had a 0.18 second lead over Bowe in the final event and the 24-year-old Japanese still thought she could make up lost ground against Kodaira in the 1000m.
She managed to beat her compatriot, Takagi clocking 1:14.56 to finish first, but it was not enough to take the title. Bowe finished in 1:14.64 for second and Kodaira secured the overall title with a third place in 1:14.96.
As reigning World Allround Champion Takagi surprised the speed skating world with her silver medal in Heerenveen. "Sometimes I surprise myself, especially after today's 500m," said Takagi. "But I'm still a little bit disappointed. I wanted gold, and I thought I could make up that one-second gap, but Nao was too strong."
Next week Takagi will defend her World Allround title in Calgary and after the races in the Netherlands she went straight to the airport for a flight to Canada on Monday.
"It was my dream to be on the podium in both the World Sprint Championships and the World Allround Championships in one season and this was the last season that it was possible (next season the two tournaments will be held at the same venue on the same weekend)," she said. "I don't know how this event will affect my performance next week. It's good for speed in the 500m and the 1500m."
Brittany Bowe paid tribute to the Japanese duo who took gold and silver 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Bowe had to make up 1.35 seconds on Kodaira in the final 1000m to win the title. "I thought if anybody can do it, I can do it," she said. "I went to that starting line thinking that I had a chance to win. Obviously I fell far short of that, but if you're not going out there to win what are you skating for?
"Miho and Nao skated phenomenally. Nao is in a class of her own this weekend and Miho had some of the best races of her life. I'm blessed to be on the podium with those two ladies in a packed Thialf. It couldn't be better."