Nao Kodaira, Japan’s first Olympic women’s speed skating champion, sets retirement

Nao Kodaira
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Nao Kodaira, the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic speed skating title, said she will race for the last time at her national championships in her hometown in October, according to Japanese media.

“When I thought about how long life is, I didn’t want it to be only about speed skating,” the 35-year-old Kodaira said Tuesday, according to multiple reported translations. “I felt that now was around the right time.

In 2018, Kodaira won Japan’s second-ever Olympic speed skating gold medal, taking the women’s 500m two decades after Hiroyasu Shimizu won the men’s 500m at the 1998 Nagano Games in Kodaira’s hometown.

She skated an Olympic record to beat home favorite and 2010 and 2014 gold medalist Lee Sang-Hwa of South Korea. After the race, Kodaira and Lee skated a lap together, raising their respective flags in one of the memorable moments of the PyeongChang Games.

Japanese women won two more golds in South Korea: in the team pursuit and mass start (Nana Takagi, who announced her retirement last week). Kodaira also took 1000m silver earlier in the 2018 Games.

This year, Kodaira was considered a medal favorite in the 500m, but was slowed by an ankle injury and finished 17th, 1.05 seconds behind American winner Erin Jackson.

“I always thought Beijing would probably be my last Olympics,” Kodaira said, according to Olympics.com. “I thought it wouldn’t be a bad time to take my life into the next phase. I started having conversations about this around the summer last year.”

Kodaira owns the Japanese female records of 34 individual World Cup victories, six individual world championships medals and two individual world titles.

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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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