Takagi opens World Cup season with win in 1,500

The Associated Press
Miho Takagi of Japan competes in the women’s 1,500 meters at the speed skating World Cup in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland, on Sunday.

TOMASZOW MAZOWIECKI, Poland — Speed skating star Miho Takagi got her World Cup season off to a good start, winning the women’s 1,500 meters on Sunday, while Japan also got a victory from Tatsuya Shinhama in men’s 500 meters on the final day of the season-opening three-day meet.

Takagi, the silver medalist at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and world record-holder in the 1,500, clocked 1 minute 56.00 seconds to break the Arena Lodowa track record and chalk up her 10th career World Cup victory in the event.

Takagi finished .60 seconds ahead of American Brittany Bowe, who also went under the previous track record of 1:56:62 held by the Netherlands’ Ireen Wust, who finished fourth Sunday in 1:57.28. Kazakhstan’s Nadezhda Morozova was third in 1:56.92.

Combined with a pair of second-place finishes the previous day, it marks a reassuring start for Takagi, given the uncertainty she and other Japanese skaters were feeling after not being able to compete overseas due to the pandemic.

“Instead of forcing it, I was able to attack,” Takagi said. “I could show in my race what I was imagining.”

Shinhama, who finished second in the first men’s 500 race on Friday, picked up a victory in the second by clocking 34.69. Canada’s Laurent Dubreuil took the silver in 34.73, while Japan’s Wataru Morishige earned the first World Cup podium place of his career by finishing third in 34.74.

In the men’s team pursuit, Japan finished third in a race won by the Netherlands. Canada finished second.

On Saturday, Masahito Obayashi picked up his first career World Cup title by winning the men’s mass start race, finishing ahead of Russia’s Ruslan Zakharov and Poland’s Zbigniew Brodka.

Takagi came away with two silver medals, placing second behind Bowe in the 1,000 in 1:15:38, then returning to the ice on the Japanese squad that finished second to Canada in the women’s team pursuit.

Nao Kodaira, who won the bronze in the 1,000, also placed third in the second women’s 500, after taking the silver in the first race on Friday. Erin Jackson of the United States swept the 500 titles.