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[ODDS and EVENS] Coach Says Miho Takagi Appears Ready to Shine at the World Championships

Miho Takagi is gearing up for her biggest competition yet in 2024. Dutch coach Johan de Wit has high hopes: "If she does her best, then she'll skate fast."

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Miho Takagi
Miho Takagi, the world's top-ranked women's 1,500-meter speed skater, competes in an ISU World Cup Speed Skating circuit race on January 27, 2024, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ODDS and EVENS] Coach Says Miho Takagi Appears Ready to Shine at the World Championships

As three-time Olympian Miho Takagi prepares for the 2024 ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Calgary, Canada, Johan de Wit, her longtime coach, believes she's on course for a successful showing at the Olympic Oval.

Speaking on Thursday, February 8 by phone from Calgary, de Wit reminded this columnist what makes Takagi one of the most compelling figures in her chosen sport.

There are "not many faster skaters than her," the Dutch mentor pointed out.

He added that Takagi, who made her Olympic debut at age 15 at the 2010 Vancouver Games, doesn't need elaborate strategies to be in the running for victories. In essence, it boils down to one thing: speed.

"If she does her best, then she'll skate fast," de Wit said, answering my inquiry about his outlook for her in Calgary. 

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"I expect her to do her best and we'll see [the results]."

The veteran Japanese speed skater has had a World Cup season to remember, one to remind everybody that she remains one of the premier athletes in her chosen sport.

Takagi captured her second consecutive ISU World Cup speed skating season title in the women's 1,000 meters on Friday, February 2 in Quebec City, Canada, the final stop of the 2023-24 campaign. 

It was Takagi's fourth win in the 1,000 out of six World Cup circuit competitions in a season that started in November 2023 in Obihiro, Hokkaido Prefecture. She finished the race in 1 minute, 14.19 seconds (a track record at Centre de Glaces), which was 0.88 seconds faster than Dutch rival Femke Kok.

Miho Takagi
Miho Takagi (KYODO)

Miho Takagi Assesses Her Overall Performance in World Cup Season

After the race, Takagi, now 29, said her rhythm at the outset of 1,000-meter races is a key to what she's accomplished in the event this season.

"I am beginning to get a feel for accelerating at the start of the 1,000," the Hokkaido Prefecture native said, according to Kyodo News.

In addition to winning the aforementioned season title in the 1,000, Takagi extended her World Cup circuit reign in the 1,500 to three consecutive season titles. She cemented the 1,500 title by impressively winning the first five World Cup races in the event.

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Another reminder of her place in the ultra-fast sport's global pecking order: At the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Takagi collected three silver medals (500, 1,500 and team pursuit) and grabbed her first individual Olympic gold (in the 1,000).

Assessing Takagi's overall performance and physical condition in early February, de Wit has high hopes for his talented protégé.

"It looks like she's getting better and better," de Wit told Odds and Evens.

Miho Takagi
Women's 1,500-meter winner Miho Takagi (center) stands with runner-up Antoinette Rijpma-de Jong (left) and third-place finisher Marijke Groenewoud, both of the Netherlands, at a World Cup Speed Skating meet on December 2, 2023, in Stavanger, Norway. (KYODO)

Preparing to Perform Well at the Single Distances World Championships

Optimism can be a positive catalyst for athletes. But having productive training sessions and being dedicated throughout the year during workouts can often have greater significance.

And now, the World Cup season is in the metaphorical rearview mirror. With de Wit's guidance, Takagi is focusing all of her energy on getting ready for the world championships.

"I'm happy to have won the season championship," she was quoted as saying by Kyodo News after clinching the title in the 1,000. "But now it's about building up for the next thing, where I'll want to peak."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven

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