• Olympics & Paralympics

Takagi gets silver in women’s 1,500 speed skating

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miho Takagi poses after the women’s 1,500 meters in Beijing on Monday.

BEIJING — Miho Takagi took the silver medal in the women’s 1,500-meter speed skating event in 1 minute 53.72 seconds on the fourth day of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Monday.

It was her second consecutive silver in the event, following the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018.

It was the fourth medal for the 27-year-old Takagi, breaking the record for the most medals by a Japanese athlete at the Winter Olympics.

Ireen Wust of the Netherlands won her second consecutive gold medal in the event following the Pyeongchang Games, in the process setting an Olympic record of 1:53.28.

Takagi was 0.44 seconds behind Wust, who also won the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

After the event, Takagi wandered along the rink with an empty gaze after realizing she had failed to reach the top of the podium.

In the 1,500, which she was confident she could win, Takagi once again finished behind the 35-year-old Wust. Takagi got off to a good start in the first 300 meters, but could not keep up that pace. She lagged behind Wust and failed to make up for the difference, skating 31.22 seconds on the last lap.

Various mental obstacles, such as anxiety, confusion and pressure, stood between Takagi and the gold medal.

Takagi on Saturday participated in the 3,000, her first Beijing event. In that race, Takagi could not adapt to the ice conditions of the rink, and she finished sixth. During the warm-up to the 1,500, her strongest event, Takagi tried to adjust her mental approach.

Said Takagi: “I sometimes felt a little anxiety, impatience and confusion. I thought back on what I had built up over the past four years [following the Pyeongchang Olympics] and tried to race with a strong spirit.”

Just as she was pumping herself up, Wust put pressure on her. Wust set an Olympic record with a 1:53.28, three pairs ahead of Takagi’s race.

“I heard her time announced, so I was aware of it. But I didn’t feel like I was in a pinch,” Takagi recalled. But Takagi might have been subtly affected by her opponent’s record. She had won three World Cup races in this event this season and had not been behind Wust then.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miho Takagi skates during the women’s 1,500 meters in Beijing on Monday.

Just before the race, Takagi closed her eyes and concentrated, and there was a moment when she stumbled against the cushions on the side of the rink.

“I couldn’t match her in getting myself into peak condition at [the Beijing Olympics],” Takagi said. “I’m not as good as her in that aspect.”

But Takagi did not lose her motivation looking forward, as she said, “I’ll do my best in the rest of the events.”

The first round of the team pursuit will be held on Saturday, and the 500 will be held the next day. After the Monday medalists’ press conference, Takagi was handed a sweet snack by Wust, who sat next to her. Takagi ate it with a smile as if to prove she had not lost her positive spirit.