Sports

Takagi wins silver in 500 as Kodaira’s defense falls short


Japan Olympic team captain Miho Takagi on Sunday claimed her second speed skating silver medal of the Beijing Winter Games, finishing just behind new champion Erin Jackson of the United States in the women’s 500 meters.

The 29-year-old Jackson rounded the track at Beijing’s National Speed Skating Oval in 37.04 seconds, 0.08 ahead of Takagi. The Russian Olympic Committee’s Angelina Golikova took bronze in 37.21.

The 27-year-old Takagi, winner of 1,500 silver on Monday, was on top of the leaderboard for much of the night until she was eventually overtaken by Jackson in the penultimate pairing.

“In this Olympics, with my hard schedule, with one thing piled on top of another, to skate my career-best 500 meters, I was really happy,” Takagi said. “I’m frankly astonished right now that I was able to get a medal.”

There was less to celebrate for Japan’s defending Olympic champion, Nao Kodaira, who fell short in her bid to win a second straight 500 crown, finishing 17th in 38.09.

The time was well outside her four-year-old Olympic record of 36.94 from Pyeongchang, where she upstaged two-time defending champion Lee Sang Hwa in front of the South Korean’s home fans.

Racing in the third-to-last pairing at the National Speed Skating Oval, the 35-year-old Kodaira got off to a slow start and was never in contention. The other Japanese skater in the field, Arisa Go, crossed in 37.98 for 15th place.

Skating against former European champion Vanessa Herzog of Austria in the fourth pairing, Takagi set out strongly on her way to a new personal-best of 37.12 and provisional first place.

With each subsequent pairing failing to match her time, she looked a chance to top the podium until Jackson scorched the “Ice Ribbon” track while racing Poland’s Kaja Ziomek, who finished ninth.

Kodaira and Takagi on Thursday will contest the women’s 1,000, the race in which they took silver and bronze, respectively, four years ago.

Takagi will also aim to repeat as a gold medalist with Japan’s women’s pursuit team.

“When the 1,500 was done, I had the team pursuit on my mind, and the amazing thing is that I was seriously considering whether to skate the 500 or not,” she said. “But now at the end, I’m glad I gave it a shot.”

Jackson ends U.S. drought

Jackson’s win gave the U.S. its first gold medal in the event since 1994. It was also the first ever Olympic medal in the sport for an African American.

She could be seen grinning widely after completing her lap in 37.04 seconds, but had to wait for the last pair to finish before she embraced her coach and burst into tears.

“I wish I could describe how I feel. It is amazing. This medal means so much,” an emotional Jackson told reporters.

“It has been a tough couple of years and a tough beginning for this year. For this to come around like this I am so happy.”

Jackson could have missed the opportunity to represent the United States after a stumble during the Olympic trials, but her teammate Brittany Bowe gave her spot in the 500m race to Jackson.

“She made a big sacrifice for me and I’ll be grateful forever,” Jackson said.

Bowe did eventually qualify for the Olympics after a reallocation of unused spots, finishing 16th out of 30 skaters.

“I’m part of the puzzle, but this one is about her. She stood at the start line and she got that job done today,” Bowe said of Jackson.

Coach Ryan Shimabukuro said the relationship between Bowe and Jackson showed the camaraderie of the team.

“She knew that Erin was the frontrunner. … Brittany knows when it matters,” he added.

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