Miho Takagi (JPN) broke the magic 1:50 barrier in the Ladies’ 1500m on Sunday at the World Cup Final in Salt Lake City. The Japanese ace outskated World Champion Ireen Wüst (NED) in the final pairing and finished in 1:49.83. Nao Kodaira (JPN) won the second 500m, and Irene Schouten (NED) surprised herself to win the concluding Mass Start event.
Takagi in a league of her own
Miho Takagi of Japan © International Skating Union (ISU)
Four ladies skated under the 1500m world record by Heather Bergsma, who set 1:50.85 at the Utah Olympic Oval in 2015, but only one broke the magic 1:50 barrier.
Brittany Bowe (USA) was the first to break Bergsma's time, clocking 1:50.32 in the fourth pairing versus Yekaterina Shikhova (RUS), who also finished under the previous world record, crossing the line in 1:50.63.
"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."
Miho Takagi took on Wüst 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 1 minute and 49.83 seconds. With 1:50.70 Wüst was also faster than the previous world record but she did not even end up on the podium.
Before her race Takagi did not know what time she had to skate to win. "I only knew that Bowe skated a world record but I don't want to know the time because I always want to skate my own race."
Like Bowe, Takagi had already expected a 1:49 winning time beforehand, saying: "I discussed it with my coach yesterday and he said anything is possible."
Bowe concluded the season on top of the final ranking in the 1500m. "This has been my best season so far," she said. "But hats off to Miho, she definitely deserved that win today."
Takagi finished second in the World Cup ranking. Wüst was third.
Kodaira wins last race but Herzog takes World Cup
Following her win on Saturday, Nao Kodaira (JPN) also took gold in Sunday's 500m, but again she fell short of Sang-Hwa Lee's (KOR) 2013 time of 36.36. Skating versus 500m World Champion Vanessa Herzog (AUT), Kodaira stopped the clock at 36.49.
L-R: Olga Fatkulina (RUS), Nao Kodaira (JPN) and Vanessa Herzog (AUT) - Ladies' 500m medalists © International Skating Union (ISU)
Kodaira regretted the lack of opposition in the Ladies' 500m after Karolína Erbanová (CZE) quit last year. "This season it has only been Vanessa (Herzog) and me. We need more fast ladies to raise the level."
Herzog finished in 36.83 to take third place in the distance, behind Olga Fatkulina (RUS) who was two thousands of a second faster in the final pairing.
With her bronze medal Herzog secured the 500m World Cup. She said: "This has been my best season ever. I won the European Championships, the World title in the 500m and the World Cup."
Kodaira, who won all World Cup races she skated this season, ended up in second place because she had skipped three races. Fatkulina took third place in the final 500m ranking.
Surprise win for Schouten
Irene Schouten (NED) surprised herself by winning the final Ladies’ Mass Start event, after having skated marathons on natural ice in Sweden in the lead-up to the World Cup final in Salt Lake City.
The Ladies' Mass Start medalists (L-R): Bo-Reum Kim (KOR), Irene Schouten (NED) and Ivanie Blondin (CAN) © International Skating Union (ISU)
The Dutch World Champion took full advantage of her teammate Melissa Wijfje's hard work to catch Marina Zueva (BLR), who tried to win with a strong breakaway. Wijfje managed to catch the Belarusian in the final lap, setting up the sprint perfectly for her compatriot.
"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. When there's a breakaway, I always have Melissa to chase them down for me. I really have to thank her. It's actually quite tough that I'm the only one to get the medal, because this is a sort of a team event. This medal is partly hers as well."
With her second place on Sunday Kim secured the Mass Start World Cup, with Schouten second and Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA), who finished fourth on Sunday, in third place.
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