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Speed skating: Kodaira, Takagi headline Pyeongchang Olympic team

From right, Nao Kodaira and sisters Miho and Nana Takagi rejoice after being named to Japan's Winter Olympic team, at M-Wave ice arena in Nagano on Dec. 30, 2017. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi were among the 16 skaters named to the Winter Olympic team by the Japan Skating Federation Saturday, after the final races of Japan's qualifying meet.

    The 31-year-old Kodaira, the reigning World Cup women's 500-meters champ and the 1,000 world record holder, will be looking for gold in those races at February's Pyeongchang games. Takagi, 23, will race in the 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000. She will join her older sister Nana in the women's team pursuit.

    "I am aiming for gold in the team pursuit, and to do better in the individual events than I have done up to this point," Miho Takagi said.

    "I've finally done it, getting a berth in the Olympics. There was some frustration after having been left off the team for Sochi (in 2014)."

    Kodaira is an Olympic veteran, but she turned a huge corner in her career last season, when she dominated the 500 meters in the World Cup and this season has been a force in the 1,000 as well.

    "This is my third time in the Olympics, but I've been able to turn all this hard work into these results," she said. "I want to do my best now to be able to show off a smile at the end."

    They are joined on the women's squad by Arisa Go, Erina Kamiya, Ayaka Kikuchi, Misaki Oshigiri and Ayano Sato.

    On the men's team, Olympic bronze medalist Joji Kato will be a four-time Olympian, having made the cut with seven other skaters: Tsubasa Hasegawa, Shane Williamson, Daichi Yamanaka, Takuro Oda, Shota Nakamura, Ryosuke Tsuchiya, and Seitaro Ichinohe.

    In Saturday's events, Oshigiri won the women's 5,000, followed by Nana Takagi, with both earning Olympic berths. Tsuchiya, Japan's national record holder in the men's 10,000, was the winner and only Olympic qualifier at that distance.

    Japan has won 15 Olympic speed skating medals -- one gold, five silver, and nine bronze -- but hasn't reached the podium since the 2010 Vancouver Games.

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