Speed skater Nana Tagaki’s nightmare week continued as the gold medal favourite dramatically failed to make the final of the women’s mass start event in Beijing
Japanese speed skater Nana Tagaki’s hopes of defending her Olympic title in the women’s mass start event came crashing down at the semi-final stage.
Tagaki, 29, was comfortably leading her heat when she made an unforced error, dramatically hitting the deck and compounding what has been a disastrous week for one of the heroes of Pyeongchang.
She arrived in China having won gold in both the team and individual events in South Korea four years ago, but on Tuesday, it was her tumble that cost Japan dear as they ended up taking silver – and it was Canada who capitalised to win gold.
Tagaki duly left the ice in tears only for history to repeat itself on Saturday as, despite no contact being made with any opponents, she lost her footing on the final curve, essentially handing the race to Italian skater Francesca Lollobrigida.
On Eurosport , the disbelief of the commentator was evident, with the incident coming shortly after he noted that the no 13 was proving lucky for Tagaki.
“Oh she’s gone, she’s gone, unlucky for her [no 13]. Oh my life.
“And they race on without the defending champion. What a tragedy for her. What a disaster. Nana Tagaki was all ready to raise her arms but it hasn’t happen, and she won’t be running off for a medal.”
To her credit, Tagaki did manage to finish the race, but cut a deflated figure as she staggered to the line in 9:10:03, eight seconds behind the nearest skater ahead of her.
It may be of little consolation to her that sister Miho has enjoyed a strong Olympics, having won three silvers and a gold in Thursday’s 1,000 metre race.
“I’ll try to take this difficult experience and learn from it so that I can become a stronger skater in the future,” she told reporters afterwards.
In the final, it was Irene Schouten of the Netherlands who surged ahead of Canada’s Ivanie Blondin with just 20 meters to go, to clock a time of 8:14:73 and notch her third gold medal of the Games.
Blondin won the silver, while Lollobrigida took bronze.
It meant an historic triple for Schouten in Beijing, having already won the women’s 3,000 and 5,000 metre events – as well as a bronze medal in the women’s team pursuit.