Pursuit of basics brings Takagi 2nd silver in Beijing

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miho Takagi smiles after finishing the women’s 500-meter speed skating event on Sunday.

Miho Takagi scooped her second silver medal of the Beijing Games in the women’s 500-meter speed skating event on Sunday. The 27-year-old is no newcomer to the Olympics, however, having competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics while a third-year junior high schooler.

Back in the day, Takagi was referred to as a “super junior high school student.” Since then, she has continued to put priority on basic training throughout the ups and downs of her career, steadily building up strength.

“It’s important to practice basic posture and weight shifting from day one,” Takagi told junior high school teacher and childhood friend Shota Sekii in Shibecha, Hokkaido, in response to a question on how best to teach his students.

Takagi’s school days were extremely busy. As a high-schooler, she would deliver newspapers in the early morning, then prepare lunch and cycle 10 kilometers to attend classes. During club activities, she was always first to prepare drinks for senior members and tidy away equipment.

Takagi would train alone after other club members returned home, using a slide board to practice moving left and right. These tireless efforts resulted in a skating form with a low center of gravity.

Following club activities, Takagi sometimes attended a dance class, which she enjoyed just as much as skating. She was notoriously studious, too, even opening a textbook on a club-expedition flight. She achieved top grades across the board, leading classmates to tease her about having more than 24 hours in a day.

While a first-year student at university, Takagi failed to grab a ticket to the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She recalls thinking, “If I want to accomplish something, I need to be prepared for it.” Drawing lessons from this setback, Takagi trained harder than ever, devoting her whole life to skating.

“I’ll stake my life [on these Games],” she vowed in the runup to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, where she bagged three medals, gold, silver and bronze, over four events.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Miho Takagi is seen at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in February 2010 when she was a third-year junior high school student.

For the Beijing Games, Takagi decided to try her hand at the 500-meter event, strengthening her lower body through cycling.

“If you give your all in a race, then results will follow,” she said. “I’ve spent the last four years working toward being able to say that.” Takagi showed her confidence by saying this prior to the Beijing Games.

Though she looked somewhat stiff after finishing second in the 1,500 meters on Feb. 7 — an event she had been expected to win — she set a personal best in the 500 meters on Sunday, expressing her joy by punching the air with her fists.

“I’m so happy I could produce my best,” a smiling Takagi said after the race.