Calgary, Canada

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Miho Takagi (JPN) and Martina Sáblíková (CZE) lead the race for the title at the end of the first day of the ladies' World Allround Championships. The Japanese skater, who is defending the title she won in Amsterdam in 2018, won the 500m by a big margin, but the four-time champion from the Czech Republic struck back with a world record in the 3000m on an exciting first day of action at the 1988 Olympic Oval in Calgary, Canada. 

Impressive start from reigning champion

Miho Takagi Calgary 2 March

Japan's Miho Takagi heads into day two of the World Allround Championships at the head of the leaderboard Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Miho Takagi (JPN) was paired with six-time World Allround gold medallist and 2018 runner-up Ireen Wüst (NED) in 500m, and the reigning champion destroyed last year's silver medallist in the opening distance to take a head start to the tournament. 

Starting in the outer lane, Takagi managed to cross ahead of Wüst after a stunning 10.41 split over 100m. With a personal best of 37.22 the Japanese left her Dutch opponent 1.24 seconds adrift at the finish line. Wüst took second place overall, just 0.06 ahead of another strong competitor, Antoinette de Jong of the Netherlands. 

The European Champion came third with a PB of 38.52, crossing the line ahead of European Allround bronze medallist Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA), who also skated a personal best of 39.06 in a hard-fought contest but ended up in a distant 11th place overall. 

World record for Sáblíková

Sablikova landscape Calgary 2 March

Martina Sáblíková, of the Czech Republic, celebrates her world-record time in the Ladies' 3000m Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

The Czech long-distance specialist Martina Sáblíková (CZE) had skated 39.32 to come 13th in the 500m, but in the 3000m she served notice of the threat she poses. 

Wüst set the bar at 3 minutes and 59.79 seconds in the eighth pairing over the longer distance on day one, and Takagi countered with 4:00.16 in the 10th pairing, comfortably retaining her number one spot in the overall classification. Canada's Isabelle Weidemann (CAN) defeated Takagi to win the pair in 3:58.51, the best time so far.

In the penultimate pairing Sáblíková took on De Jong, and the 3000m and 5000m world champion started as she meant to go on, flashing across the finish line in world-record time. 

"I've been skating great laps here in training and my coach said I should go for the world record,” Sáblíková said. "I doubted, because I tried it here two or three years ago and I died in the last two laps. But I thought ‘OK, let's try’."

This time around, Sáblíková maintained her form until the end. With 3.53.31 she was 0.03 seconds faster than previous record-holder Cindy Klassen (CAN) had been on the same track 13 years ago. 

Sáblíková could hardly believe that she finally made it. "I don't know what to say, those last two laps were very, very hard,” she said.

De Jong finished second in the 3000m, clocking 3:58.25, narrowly ahead of Weidemann, who took third place. 

Isabelle Weidemann Clagary 2 March

Home favorite Isabelle Weidemann finished third in the Ladies' 3000m Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Sáblíková versus Takagi

Going into day two, Takagi leads the overall classification with a 2.88 second advantage over Sáblíková for Sunday's 1500m. De Jong lies in third, 2.95 seconds behind, and Wüst fourth with +3.54. 

"I'm not going to settle for third or fourth place, but I have to be realistic,” said De Jong, who won the gold medal at the recent European Allround Championships in Collalbo, Italy. "I'll just have to skate two very good races tomorrow." 

Sáblíková and Takagi each tried to put the other into the role of favorite ahead of day two at Calgary’s Olympic Oval. 

"Miho is Miho, she's incredibly great in all distances and I think she will be world champion," Sáblíková said. "I don’t know about myself tomorrow. I'll have to skate a very good 1500m, but after today I feel very tired."

Takagi, who took silver at the World Sprint Championships last week in Heerenveen, Netherlands, said she had recovered well. "I flew over on Monday and I had to adapt to the longer distances, but it feels OK.

"I do not think my lead is enough to keep Sáblíková at bay, however. She was very strong in the 3000m and she will be equally strong in the 5000m tomorrow. I have not skated the 5000m for a very long time, so it's difficult to tell where I stand. But I'm looking forward to it."

Takagi's coach Johan de Wit (NED) thinks that his pupil needs a solid lead to hold off Sáblíková.

"I think Miho needs to gain another three seconds in the 1500m,” he said. "She should be able to skate the 5000m under 7:00 minutes, and Sáblíková is capable of 6:40. 

"I think Sáblíková is the big favorite, but many things can happen in an Allround tournament and normally Miho is doing well on the second day."

Antoinette de Jong Calgary 2 March

"I'm not going to settle for third or fourth," said Antoinette de Jong (NED, right) at the end of day one at the World Allrounds Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

For full entry lists and further information regarding the ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships please visit: Results are here and you can follow the discussion on social media by using #AllroundSpeed #SpeedSkating.

The ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships will be available in some countries on the ISU Skating Channel.