Nao Kodaira

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Who are Japan’s most visible athletes ahead of Tokyo Olympics?

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No surprise, Yuzuru Hanyu garnered the most major TV coverage of any Japanese athlete in 2018.

Nihon Monitor, a media research and analysis company in Japan, reported that the double Olympic champion figure skater received 186 hours, 26 minutes of TV time last year among six major domestic networks.

Other PyeongChang Olympic medalists made the list: figure skater Shoma Uno (fourth, 94 hours) and speed skaters Nao Kodaira (fifth, 87 hours) and Miho Takagi (sixth, 85 hours).

The only athlete in the top eight with Tokyo Olympic hopes was tennis player Naomi Osaka, who ranked third with 118 hours, one spot behind Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani (177 hours).

Three soccer players and yokozuna Hakuhō Shō rounded out the top 10.

Osaka, a 21-year-old born in Osaka to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, has lived in the U.S. since age 3. She won the U.S. Open in September in a memorable final with Serena Williams. She captured the next Grand Slam, the Australian Open in January, to become world No. 1.

“Every time the Japanese press is at a tournament they always talk about the Tokyo Olympics,” Osaka said in June, according to the Times of London.

Osaka just missed the 2016 Rio Games. She was 87th in the world on the rankings cutoff date. The lowest-ranked player to make the Olympic women’s singles field — outside of continental/tripartite/host country representation — was No. 86. Osaka could have been ineligible anyway because she had yet to compete for Japan in Fed Cup.

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Brittany Bowe wins overall bronze at the World Sprint Championships

US Speedskating
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HEERENVEEN, Netherlands – Two-time Olympian Brittany Bowe celebrated her 31st birthday on Sunday by winning a bronze overall medal at the 2019 World Sprint Championships.

All athletes at the event skate two 500m races and two 1000m races. The times for those distances are converted to points using the samalog system, and the skater with the lowest total from all four races wins the championship.

In Saturday’s races, Bowe won gold in the first 1000m with a time of 1:14.60. She holds the track record in the 1000m at the Thialf Ice Arena (1:13.24) where earlier in the day she finished fifth in her first 500m event (37.89).

Bowe’s second day of races got her two silver medals; 500m (37.67) and 1000m (1:14.64). Her total time for all events (150.18) earned her a bronze medal for the overall event.

For the ladies, Japanese skaters Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi took the overall first and second spots with a combined time of 149.665 and 150.050 respectively. Kodaira is the current world record holder in the 1000m (1:12.09).

Full results are here.

Kimi Goetz made her debut appearance at the sprint championships, after switching from short track skating last fall. Her first 500m landed her in 15th (38.49) and in her first 1000m, she finished in 19th (1:17.14). During the second day of racing, Kimi finished 16th in her 500m (38.81) and 16th in her 1000m (1:16.85) to come in 17th overall (154.295).

“I think that each time I go to the starting line, I’m improving my race execution and track patterns,” Goetz said through US Speedskating. “I still have a ton to learn but getting four more races at this level is a great opportunity for me. I have two more competitions left for the season [World Cup Finals mass start and the Calgary Finale], so I’m trying to take advantage of every race opportunity I have.”

This was also the first sprint championships for Brianna Bocox. Bocox’s first 500m time was 39.47 and she finished her 1000m with a time of 1:18.37. In her second 500m, she crossed the line at 39.67 and the 1000m at 1:19.24. Her combined time of 157.945 earned her 22nd overall.

“It was an extremely amazing opportunity to compete at my first World Sprint Championships in Thialf,” Bocox said. “The crowd and venue is one-of-a-kind!

Two-time Olympian Joey Mantia raced the first day of the championship event but decided not to compete the second day due to an ongoing back problem.

“I’ve had some issues with my back this season, on and off, starting in September,” Mantia said. “After getting on the ice for warm-up today, I wasn’t confident that I could race today and not make it worse. So I decided to rest and hopefully be ready for the world cup final in a couple of weeks.”

Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov won the overall men’s title (137.390), followed by Japan’s Tatsuya Shinhama (137.805) and Dutch skater Kjeld Nuis (1:37.86).

Both Mantia and Bowe won World Single Distance Championships titles two weeks ago in Inzell, Germany. Mantia is the world champion for the Mass Start and Bowe is the 1000m world champion.

Long track skaters will race in the World Cup Finals at the Utah Olympic Oval, Mar. 9-10. Bowe has won 12 world cup medals and Mantia has won a silver world cup medal this season.

MORE: Joey Mantia wins Mass Start at World Single Distance Championships

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Speed skating world records fall in Salt Lake City

AP
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KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Japan’s Nao Kodaira and Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen broke world records on the final day of a World Cup speed skating event at the Utah Olympic Oval on Sunday.

Kodaira finished in 1 minute, 12.09 seconds in the women’s 1000m, her third race victory in three days. U.S. Olympian Brittany Bowe held the previous record of 1:12.18 from 2015.

The Dutch-born Bloemen finished in 6:01.86 in the men’s 5000m.

Dutch skater Sven Kramer held the previous record of 6:03.32 set in 2007 but was not in Sunday’s race on “The World’s Fastest Ice,” preferring to stay in Europe to train for the Olympic Trials.

“I always looked up to that old world record,” Bloemen, who took Kramer’s 10,000m world record in 2015, said, according to the International Skating Union. “That was such an epic race and Sven was so angry. His 6:03 was so much faster than all the ties that were ever skated, and even after that race no one actually has come close.”

Now marks the first time since 1998 that no Dutch man holds the world record in an individual Olympic event. Kramer is undefeated internationally over 5000m since 2012, according to Schaatsstatistieken.nl.

“I think I would have beaten him [today],” Bloemen said, according to the ISU. “At the first three World Cups this season you saw that the momentum was on my side. I got closer every race, and I think this would have been the final blow.”

Bowe improved on a pair of 13th-place finishes in the 500m on Friday and Saturday. She finished in 1:13.55 to place sixth in the 1000m.

Seeing her world record fall broke Bowe’s heart, but she took comfort in ending the weekend with her strongest performance over three days. She showed progress after losing significant time to head injuries a year ago.

“My skating felt better,” Bowe said. “The timing felt better. I feel like I was connecting and, yeah, I definitely felt stronger than I have so far this year.”

Russia’s Denis Yuskov won the men’s 1000m in 1:06.92, a half-second off Shani Davis‘ world record. Yuskov broke Davis’ eight-year-old 1000m world record Saturday.

Yuskov edged Dutchman skater Koen Verweij, who finished in 106.94. Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov followed in 1:06.96.

Jonathan Garcia was the top American, seventh with a personal best of 1:07.40. Joey Mantia was 10th, and Davis 12th.

Garcia came into the race with the goal of producing a top-six finish. He said his performance was about 90 percent of where he wants to be, but feels like he is on an upward trend ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Garcia’s main goal is to simply not peak too early over the next two months.

“I know myself, I’ve been skating for 23 years.” Garcia said. “I can’t maintain being my best every day for six months or two months. I really have to make sure I strategically place myself where I need to be throughout the season.”

Russia’s Natalia Voronina took the women’s 3,000 in 3:57.70. The Czech Republic’s Martina Sablikova was second in 3:57.84, and Germany’s Claudia Pechstein finished third in 3:58.69.

The weekend marked the final World Cup before the U.S. Olympic Trials from Jan. 2-7

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MORE: 45-year-old speed skater eyes record 7th Olympics