Takagi targets medal in 1,500 after bitter 6th place in 3,000

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miho Takagi, front, finished sixth in the women’s 3000-meter speed skating on Saturday.

BEIJING — Having paid the price with a disappointing finish on an unfamiliar rink, busy speed skating star Miho Takagi is determined to get back on track in her next event.

Takagi, coming off a sixth-place finish in the women’s 3,000 meters on Saturday, vowed to rally in Monday’s 1,500, the next event in her five-event card at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Takagi holds the world record in the 1,500 and won three consecutive World Cup races this season.

Having now skated on the Beijing rink, “It will be easier for me to visualize how I should build up for the 1,500,” she said.

On Saturday, the Japan Olympic team captain placed sixth in 4 minutes 1.77 seconds, while Dutch skater Irene Schouten skated off with the gold after setting a new Olympic record of 3:56.93.

Takagi’s face was grim after crossing the finish line. “I tried to go faster in the lap after the first 200 meters, but I couldn’t,” she said, fighting to not show her bitter disappointment.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miho Takagi finished 6th in the women’s 3000-meter speed skating on Saturday.

The veteran Takagi seemed tentative during her race. She’s familiar with rinks around the world, but it was her first time on the Beijing ice.

“I had no idea what time [I could aim for],” she said. Takagi also started in the third of 10 pairs, ahead of the most talented competitors, prompting her to say, “I didn’t even know how fast a time would give me a chance for a medal.”

Even more than usual, it was a race against herself.

When Takagi posted the fastest time on Japanese soil at the final Olympic qualifier in December last year in Nagano — like the Beijing rink a low-altitude rink — she was aware of the need to “build up speed first and stay in a good rhythm.”

She clocked 19.58 seconds for the first 200 meters Saturday, the exact same as at the qualifier. However, her split for the next 400 was 31.24, compared to 30.63 in Nagano, and the loss of speed cost her.