Japanese sprinter Nao Kodaira failed to live up to her billing as the headline act and had to make do with a runner-up finish as the Netherlands' Jorien ter Mors zoomed off with the women's 1,000 meters speed skating gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games on Wednesday night.
World record holder Kodaira watched ter Mors set an Olympic-record 1 minute, 13.56 seconds in the 12th pairing and could not better it when she stepped onto the Gangneung Oval track, finishing 0.26 of a second off the Dutchwoman's time. Japan's Miho Takagi took bronze, her second medal of the games.
"I just wasn't good enough to win the gold," said Kodaira. "You can see that the strongest athletes really step it up at the Olympics, whichever sport you are competing in."
"I might have set the world record in the 1,000 meters but to be honest I still don't fully believe I am the finished product in this distance. Maybe that showed in the result today," she said.
Kodaira said of ter Mors' effort: "It was a great skate. The atmospheric pressure was dropping tonight so I thought we would see some fast times, but at the same time I knew I had to concentrate on myself."
"It was going really well for me up to the 600-meter lap. I fell behind a little at the end but I think I was able to do my best through the finish line."
Kodaira had the chance to become the first Japanese female to win a speed skating gold medal at the Winter Olympics but it was not to be as ter Mors, the Sochi Olympics 1,500 and team pursuit gold medalist, surprised by continuing her perfect speed skating record at the Olympics, having won every event she has entered.
Ter Mors said she had reaped the reward of adjustments she made to her skating in the lead-up to Pyeongchang.
"I'm really happy. I worked really hard," she said. "I had a lot of struggles at the beginning of the season, did some changes toward the Olympics and it paid off so happy to be here (as) Olympic champion. It means a lot."
Kodaira, 31, had failed to medal in individual events in her previous two Olympic appearances, fifth being her best placing in the 500, 1,000 or 1,500. But she and Takagi joined Hiroyasu Shimizu as the only Japanese to win multiple Olympic speed skating medals.
"More than thinking about medal and ranking I was just focused on the white ice and making this beautiful rink mine," said Kodaira. "That is all I was focused on. I think I raced my own way right until the end."
Takagi, who won the silver medal in the 1,500 meters on Monday, felt she had performed better than expected.
"I couldn't get the gold, but I skated better than I thought considering my physical condition," she said. "I was unsure how I'd do until the last minute because the 1,500 took a bigger toll on me than I imagined. I'm thankful my body held up."
Also for Japan, Arisa Go came 13th.