Salt Lake City / USA

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It does not seem to matter who skates for Japan alongside Miho and Nana Takagi in the Ladies Team Pursuit. As long as the sisters take the ice, it’s world record time.

In Salt Lake City, Ayano Sato (JPN) joined the Takagis to break the world record for the third consecutive time.

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The same line-up at the first World Cup this season in Heerenveen shaved 0.02 seconds off Canada’s 2009 Calgary world record of 2 minutes and 55.79 seconds. Last week in Calgary Ayaka Kikuchi (JPN) joined the Takagi sisters to clock 2:53.88.

On Friday, Sato was back in the team when Japan took on Canada in the final pairing at the Utah Olympic Oval. They easily outpaced Ivanie Blondin, Keri Morrison and Isabelle Weidemann (CAN) to finish in 2:50.87, a full three seconds faster than their previous record. Canada ended up fifth in 2:56.61.

Despite making a habit of breaking the world record, Miho Takagi was surprised about how fast they went. 

“The condition is good, but this time is amazing,” she said.

However, the Japanese seem unable to decide on their best line-up.

Sato said: “All the skaters are good. Today, this was the strongest team, but next month? I don’t know.”  

The Netherlands (Marrit Leenstra, Melissa Wijfje, Lotte van Beek) took silver in a new national record time of 2:55.57, and Germany (Claudia Pechstein, Roxanne Dufter, Gabriele Hirschbichler) grabbed bronze in 2:56.14.

Dutch van Beek got redemption for last week’s crash in the final 200m of the Team Pursuit race, which put Olympic qualification in jeopardy.

“This feels like revenge for last week,” she said. “That was the first time in four years I skated a team pursuit. To crash and take the whole team out at such a moment, that gave me a really bad feeling. It’s super to make up for that with a national record.

“We skated a good race and we managed to stay calm.”

Leenstra said: “Last week we actually also skated very well, so that’s what we wanted to bring with us, only this week we needed to take it 200m further.”

Leenstra did not know the Netherlands line-up that will eventually skate at the Olympic Games. 

“It all depends on the Dutch Olympic Qualification tournament,” she said. “We are all focused on qualifying individually and after that it’s up to the national coach to select the best squad.”

Full results and classifications. Follow the discussion on social media by using #WCSpeed and #SpeedSkating and watch the live stream on the ISU Skating Channel.