The Japanese ladies boosted their confidence heading into next week's ISU World Single Distance Championships in Salt Lake City, taking their tally to three golds over the World Cup weekend. Miho Takagi smashed Brittany Bowe's 2015 track record by 1.26 seconds to win the 1500m on the final day in Calgary, while Nao Kodaira added 500m gold to her win in Friday's 1000m.
Nao Kodaira took her weekend tally to two golds with victory in the Ladies' 500m on Saturday 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Ladies' 500m: Kodaira and Golikova outclass rest of field
After she won Friday's 1000m, Nao Kodaira (JPN) had a chat with Angelina Golikova (RUS), who had come seventh. The Japanese Olympic 500m champion told her Russian opponent that she would be her favorite pair-mate for Saturday's 500m.
“So when I saw the draw, it was a good surprise for me,” Golikova said.
Kodaira and Golikova faced each other in the third-last pair of the opening event on Saturday and they outclassed the rest of the field.
With 10.32 and 26.33 Kodaira had the fastest opener as well as the fastest full lap of the field to finish in 36.65 seconds.
“It was a good race,” Kodaira said. “Every stroke was good. Only the second corner was not exactly what it should have been, but I'm ready for next week [World Single Distance Championships in Salt Lake City].”
Ladies' 500m medalists (from left): Angelina Golikova (RUS), Nao Kodaira (JPN), Vanessa Herzog (AUT) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Golikova did not yield much, losing 0.03 in the opener and 0.09 in the full lap to clock a personal best and Russian national record of 36.78.
"I don't want to be celebrating too soon," Golikova said. "Last year I also broke the national record but the next day my friend Olga Fatkulina broke it again.
"If I'm still the fastest after Salt Lake City it will really be a national record."
She was at least still the fastest at the end of the Calgary leg of the World Cup. Fatkulina skated in the final pairing versus Brittany Bowe (USA) and had to settle for fourth place in 37.11. Bowe ended up 12th in 37.70.
Kodaira and Golikova were the only skaters to beat the 37 second barrier, with bronze medalist Vanessa Herzog (AUT) clocking 37.08.
The reigning 500m world champion from Austria is fighting back after a disastrous start to the season, when she was disqualified after two false starts at the first World Cup in Minsk in November.
"The [season] start was terrible of course,” she said. “But I tried to fight my way back and from Japan [fourth World Cup in Nagano in December] until now, I was on the podium in every 500m.
"I'm not where I want to be but yeah… I have to live with it. My goal is to be on the podium next week. [Defending my world title] would be a dream, but the other girls are very strong."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 500m Ladies
Japan's Miho Takagi is looking forward to Salt Lake City after winning the Ladies' 1500m in Calgary 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Ladies’ 1500m: Takagi in league of her own
Miho Takagi (JPN) looks to have timed her return to form to perfection. The 1500m world-record holder had yet to win an A Division race in this season's World Cup before she stepped on the ice for her final test in the run-up to the World Single Distance Championships.
Clocking a blistering track record of 1:50.33 she made amends for a disappointing display in Friday's 1000m, when she finished fourth.
"Yesterday was not so good. I was pushing too much therefore my legs were too tired after one lap. Today I kept my composure and had more control," she said.
Takagi finished just 0.50 outside her own Salt Lake City-set world record.
"If I can keep this focus I can do a better race next week, but a world record? I don't know, I'll try," she said.
Ivanie Blondin (CAN) came second to give the crowd at Calgary’s Olympic Oval their first ‘home’ medal of the World Cup weekend. The Canadian needed 1.43 seconds more than Takagi to complete the 1500m.
World champion Ireen Wüst has put the pressure on rival Miho Takagi ahead of next week's world champs in the USA 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Taking bronze in 1:51.99 was Ireen Wüst (NED). Despite trailing Takagi by a 1.65 second margin, the reigning world champion is not too worried about her form ahead of next week's world championships.
“I would rather have skated 1:50 here, but one week ahead of an important event I'm looking at the positives,” she said.
“The opener was not good, sloppy, but after that I got into the race. Because of that opener I lacked the real top speed and that's hard to make up for.
“There's little things to improve, things you may not even be able to see with the naked eye. It's the way I enter the corners, the timing. Just little things but they can make a big difference.”
The overall World Cup leader is looking forward to taking on Takagi again next week on the ice at Salt Lake City.
“[Takagi] was outstanding today,” Wüst said. “She is the lady to beat and I'm really curious to see how she handles that pressure.
“I rely on my experience. I rely on my race instinct, which always give me that little bit extra on big occasions.”
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 500m Ladies