Kamila Valieva tears up after an impressive short program routine, heading into Thursday’s free skate event

Japan’s Ayano Sato and Miho Takagi react after teammate Nana Takagi fell in the women’s team pursuit final on February 15. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)

Athletes train their entire careers to try and win Olympic gold.

But for every moment of glory for one athlete, there is often a moment of misfortune for another.

On Tuesday, Japanese speed skaters were sadly heartbroken.

As Japan led Canada into the team pursuit final and looked set to be crowned Olympic champions, Nana Takagi caught one of her blades in the ice on the final turn, knocking her off and falling. crush against the barriers.

“To be honest, I was in a great mood (before the race),” Takagi said. “I thought I was going to finish my best skating in the last week and a half, with my sister (Miho).

“My mind hasn’t recovered from the fall. It’s hard for me to think about it or talk about it right now.

But despite this grief, the Japanese skaters still embodied the Olympic spirit.

After the race, when a discouraged Nana was crying on the side of the track, her teammate and sister Miho immediately went to comfort her.

Japan's Nana Takagi is consoled by her teammates after her crash in the women's team pursuit final on February 15.
Japan’s Nana Takagi is consoled by her teammates after her crash in the women’s team pursuit final on February 15. (The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP)

“I couldn’t find the words to say to him at that time,” Miho said. “I just wanted to be near her and give her a hug.

“In this event, to fall, we understand the pressure will be on. We can’t reverse it, we can’t change it. It’s frustrating.

“You may think they shouldn’t be held responsible, but that skater who falls will feel guilty. So I knew I had mixed feelings and that’s why I hugged my sister,” said Miho said.

We regret so much that we did not take the gold.

“We did what we could. We made plans together on how to skate faster (and) we were confident to skate our best.

“Finishing the race with a crash made it difficult to assess our performance, but I still think we did our best.”

The team’s third skater, Ayano Sato, said she had “mixed feelings of regret and joy”.

“If we only focus on the result, when we were aiming for a gold medal, it’s just disappointing.

“[But] the time we spend together thinking about how to perform our best, how to skate even faster, that time in itself is priceless to me.”

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