Japanese women set new Olympic record on way to speed skating team pursuit gold
Japan overpowered the Dutch reigning champions in the final of the women’s speed skating team pursuit at PyeongChang 2018, claiming gold in an Olympic record time of two minutes 53.89 seconds at Gangneung Oval on Wednesday 21 February.
The Japanese trio of Miho Takagi, Ayano Sato and Nana Takagi produced a flawless performance to win only their country's third Olympic speed skating title and thwart the Netherlands' bid to secure a seventh gold in the discipline at PyeongChang 2018.
Despite having brought in the fresh legs of substitute Marrit Leenstra for the final, the Dutch were outskated by the world record holders, who went into the competition as the favourites, having won nine of the last 11 World Cup races in the event, including the last six. Skating in perfect symmetry, with the substitute Sato having come in for Ayaka Kikuchi, they stormed out of the gates and stayed ahead of their defending champions.
In the contest for the last podium place, the USA beat Canada to land their first Olympic women's speed skating medal since Salt Lake City 2002, with Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe and Mia Manganello finishing 0.45 seconds ahead of their local rivals.
"Today we were able to perform in both races as we planned," said gold medallist Miho Takagi. "I'm thankful for my coach, who planned the strategy, and to my teammates, who raced well with me."
Team-mate Sato said: "I'm so glad. I felt like collapsing at one stage but I was able to maintain my speed until the end. Thank you to Ayaka who raced well in the semi-final." For her part, Miho's sister Nana added: "I'm so proud that I was able to compete in the best race at the best Olympic Games."
In forming part of the Dutch team that landed the silver, Ireen Wust took her Olympic Winter Games medal collection to 11, becoming only the fourth athlete to do so. "We did our very best and I think this morning after the semi-final we were in good shape and we wanted the gold," she said.
"On one hand silver is a little disappointing but on the other hand I'm proud of the team and what we've achieved," she added. "We skated a national record, we did our very best and we were never faster than today. We have to be proud. At the end we are happy with silver, but we came for the gold."
"Feeling blessed to be here," said the USA's Brittany Bowe, content with her team's bronze. "I couldn't have done it without the team and I'm happy to do it with these fine ladies. It has taken an army to get me here, and it's taken an army to get these three other ladies here. We couldn't have done it without each other."