Japan, Netherlands cut up golds at pace skating World Cup Finals

SALT LAKE CITY, the United States, March 11 (Xinhua) — Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands and Miho Takagi from Japan broke the world records of the men’s and women’s 1,500 meters here on Sunday as their teams split the six gold medals on offer on the second and last day of the speed skating World Cup Finals.

Nuis went in the second pairing of the men’s 1,500m, facing compatriot Thomas Krol. The two Dutchmen started at a ferocious pace and clocked split times more than half a second under the previous world record set by Russia’s Denis Yuskov in 2017.

“We clocked 1:05.8 after 1000m,” said Nuis, who finished in one minute and 40.176 seconds to edge Krol by 0.36 seconds. “Faster than yesterday’s world record time in the 1000m. This was awesome. I’ve never skated this fast. This was so much better than yesterday. I was able to accelerate in every corner.”

Irene Schouten added one more gold for the Dutch team by winning the women’s mass start event.

“I hadn’t expected this at all,” Schouten said. “Coming off the natural ice in Sweden, this fast track in Salt Lake City is something completely different. But the whole race went according to plan perfectly.”

Miho Takagi broke the magic 1:50 barrier in the women’s 1,500m. The Japanese ace outskated world champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands in the final pairing and finished in 1:49.839.

Four ladies skated under the old women’s 1,500m world record of 1:50.85 set by American Heather Bergsma at the Utah Olympic Oval in 2015, but only Takagi was able to make it within 1:50.

Brittany Bowe of the United States was the first to break Bergsma’s time, clocking 1:50.327 in the fourth pairing versus Russia’s Yekaterina Shikhova, who also finished under the previous world record, crossing the line in 1:50.637.

“It was a great race, and I was obviously happy to win the pair but I did not think that time would stand,” Bowe said. “I knew 1:49 was going to win it today.”

Takagi took on Wust in the final pairing and the Japanese silver medal winner at both the World Allround and the World Sprint Championships proved to be the best in combining speed and stamina in the middle distance. Leaving the world champion behind, Takagi stopped the clock after one minute and 49.839 seconds. Finishing in 1:50.708, Wust was also faster than the previous world record, but she did not even end up on the podium.

The other three gold medals also went to Japanese skaters as Nao Kodaira claimed the second women’s 500m and Tatsuya Shinhama and Ryosuke Tsuchiya were crowned in the second men’s 500m and men’s mass start event respectively.

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