Heerenveen / Netherlands

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.

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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.”

The gap with runners-up Netherlands was more than three seconds, but Ireen Wüst, who took silver with teammates Jorien ter Mors and Antoinette de Jong, was not worried.

“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.”

Full results and classifications.