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Speed skating: Olympic champ Kodaira wins 1st 500-meter race of season

This photo shows Pyeongchang Olympic speed skating gold medalist Nao Kodaira of Japan en route to winning the Japan Cup women's 500-meter race in 37.78 seconds at M-Wave ice arena in Nagano Prefecture on Oct. 19, 2018. (Kyodo)

NAGANO, Japan (Kyodo) -- Pyeongchang Olympic gold medal-winning speed skater Nao Kodaira opened the new season on a strong note Friday, topping the podium in the women's 500 meters at the Japan Cup.

Kodaira, competing in her first official meet of the season, won the race in 37.78 seconds at M-Wave ice arena. Miho Takagi, who won three medals at the 2018 Games, finished second 0.19 second behind her.

"It's a passing score," Kodaira said. "I'll end up losing my breath if I start the season with full force."

Kodaira hit the ice for preseason training about a month later than planned due to the strong earthquake that hit Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, in September.

The 32-year-old has said her goal for the season is to break the current 500 world record. She set a new mark in the women's 1,000 last year.

Despite her dominance in the 500, Kodaira has not been able to surpass the world record of 36.36 held by South Korea's Lee Sang Hwa. Lee settled for silver at February's Pyeongchang Games after finishing 0.39 second behind Kodaira.

Kodaira will compete at the Oct. 26-28 national single distance championship, where she aims to win her ninth Japanese title in the event.

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