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1ST LEAD Japan shock Netherlands as Norway claim first gold in team pursuit By Barry Whelan, dpa

Europe, Europa
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Pyeongchang, South Korea (dpa) - Japan claimed a shock gold medal at the expense of speed-skating giants the Netherlands in the women‘s team pursuit at the Pyeongchang Games on Wednesday, while a storming performance by Norway denied the hosts a famous gold in the men‘s.

The Japan team of Ayana Sato and sisters Miho and Nana Takagi came home in 2 minutes 53.89 seconds - smashing the Olympic record the Netherlands had set in qualification on Monday to rub salt into the former champions‘ wounds.

"Clocking this lap time at the Olympics will give confidence to all the Japanese people," Miho Takagi said. "I‘m so happy to have achieved an Olympic record that a lot of young Japanese skaters could go for. For them, I‘d like to chase after this record."

Japan‘s gold is only their second medal in the event after previously winning silver at Vancouver 2010.

The Netherlands have dominated speed skating in Pyeongchang and had won five of the last six women‘s team pursuit events at the Olympic Winter Games and world single distances championships combined. But, after winning gold in women‘s pursuit at Sochi 2014, they could not make it back-to-back titles here.

Dutch skater Antoinette de Jong was philosophical about the result.

"It was not good enough for a gold medal but it was enough for a national record, so it was good," she said. "Four years ago we won the gold medal and it‘s disappointing that we took the silver medal [here] but I‘m still happy. It was a fast race from Japan so good job by them."

The United States took bronze by beating Canada.

In the men‘s, the Norwegians couldn‘t quite match their own effort in the semi-finals, when they set a new Olympic record while dumping out favourites the Netherlands, but they still blazed round in 3 minutes 37.32 seconds to finish more than a minute ahead of South Korea.

The team of Havard Bokko, Simen Spieler Nilsen and Sverre Lunde Pedersen made history, the gold being Norway‘s first-ever medal in either men‘s or women‘s team pursuit.

Sindre Henriksen, who was part of the Norway team but did not skate in the final, was overjoyed with their success:

"I can‘t put words on it. It is hard to describe," he said. "We have sacrificed so much. Time with our families, time with our friends. We didn‘t have a lot of money, it was a small budget but we kept working and we had a goal.

"It was a tough goal but it was a goal that we wanted to win a medal in the Olympics and now we did it. It‘s unreal and I will need some time to let it sink in."

After winning gold at Sochi 2014, the Netherlands will have been disappointed with bronze, though it did mean that team member Sven Kramer claimed a record fourth team pursuit medal to add to two bronzes and a gold.


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