Japan’s Miho Takagi took the lead on the opening day of the International Skating Union (ISU) World Allround Speed Skating Championships in Amsterdam, where home athlete Ireen Wüst is seeking to defend her title and win her sixth in all.
Takagi, winner of Olympic 1,500 metres silver and 1,000m bronze medals at Pyeongchang 2018, as well as team pursuit gold, has an advantage of 3.42 points over her Dutch rival after winning the opening 500m event and finishing second behind Wust in the 3,000m at the Olympic Stadium built for the 1928 Games.
It is the first time the Championships have been held outdoors since Budapest in 2001.
The 23-year-old Japanese skater, seeking her first overall victory in this event, completed the shorter distance in 39.01sec, which translated to 39.010 points, with Wüst ninth in 40.81 for 40.810 points.
Gabriele Hirschbichler of Germany was second in 40.22, with third place going to Japan’s Ayaka Kikuchi, who clocked 40.32, and home skater Antoinette de Jong taking fourth place in 40.47.
Wüst, winner of her fifth Olympic gold medal at Pyeongchang 2018, triumphing over 1,500m and also adding two silver medals in the 3,000m and team pursuit, won the 3,000m in 4min 15.80sec but Takagi was next fastest with 4:19.78.
Third place went to Martina Sáblíková of the Czech Republic in 4:21.05.
She was followed by Dutch pair Annouk van der Weijden, whose 4:22.35 registered 43.725 points, and De Jong, whose 4:23.04 totalled 43.840.
So Takagi holds a narrow advantage as the women go into tomorrow’s concluding events of the 1,500m and 5,000m.
The men’s competition, in which Sven Kramer is looking for his 10th title and his fourth in a row in front of his home fans, is due to get underway tomorrow with the 500 and 5,000m races, with the concluding 1500 and 10,000m events on Sunday (March 11).
Kramer goes into the event after winning gold over 5,000 metres at Pyeongchang 2018h, his fourth Olympic title.
The event, which sees athletes race a variety of distances with the best combined skater coming out on top, is this year celebrating its 125th anniversary.
Amsterdam is a fitting location as the first edition of the Championships was held in the Dutch capital's Museum Square in 1893.