Their gold medal did not come as a surprise, but the world record certainly did as the Japanese Team Pursuit Ladies started the World Cup season in spectacular fashion in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, on Friday.
Nana Takagi, Miho Takagi and Ayano Sato (JPN) beat the Netherlands on home soil and broke Canada’s 2009 world record by 0.02 by finishing in 2:55.77. The Dutch ladies had to settle for silver in 2:59.06 and Canada came third in 3:00.65.
The world record was all the more surprising because the 2009 record was set on the high-altitude track in Calgary, Alberta, which usually is faster than sea-level Thialf in Heerenveen.
“We expected a time around 2:57,” said Japan coach Johan de Wit (NED).
“But this doesn’t come out of the blue. We have won the World Cup two years in a row and we improve every year.
“Our big advantage is that we can always train as a team. We invested a lot of time.”
“They’re fast, obviously - it’s a world record. They skate 28-second laps towards the end and we only manage 30-second laps. But I’m convinced that we can match their lap times in the second half of this season.”