BEIJING (Reuters) – Japanese speed skater Miho Takagi finally clinched a gold medal on Thursday after winning three silvers at the Beijing Olympics, as fans breathed a sigh of relief that she would end the Winter Games on a high.
After coming up just short in the 1,500m, the 500m and the team pursuit, she secured the elusive top spot on the podium as she sailed to victory in the women’s 1,000 metres.
“There have been lots of ups and downs for me, winning silver medals. To finally win the gold, I am happy, but I am happy not just for the medal, but because I could really give it my best today,” Takagi said.
During this Winter Games, she became the most decorated female Japanese Olympian, after previously winning a gold, silver and bronze in Pyeongchang four years ago.
The 27-year-old finished behind speed skating great Ireen Wust in her strongest 1,500m distance, while the gold slipped out of her hands again when a team mate fell on the last corner in the team pursuit.
“I was terrified to watch the race today, especially because the team pursuit race was so heartbreaking,” said one fan at the National Speed Skating Oval.
“So I was just praying that she would win gold today… I’m so glad it actually happened.”
“To finish on a gold medal – it was like watching a TV series! Thank you for inspiring us,” said another fan on Twitter.
Thursday’s victory was Takagi’s first individual title in a career spanning 12 years. She made her Olympic debut at Vancouver in 2010 as a 15-year-old, but did not qualify for Sochi.
In a sport where skaters would usually save themselves for two or three races, Takagi raced in five – the 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 3,000m, and team pursuit.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Toby Davis)