BEIJING (REUTERS) - Canada won gold in the women's speed skating team pursuit, taking advantage of a mishap by the defending champions Japan at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday (Feb 15).
Japan started strong and kept a steady half-second lead ahead of their Canadian rivals. But a slip by Ayano Sato, who was third in the train as they coasted towards a gold medal with the finish line in sight, cost them their title at the National Speed Skating Oval.
She lost her balance as the team sped around the last corner and banged into the trackside wall.
"Unfortunately our race ended with a fall... but I don't regret everything we've done to get here," Miho Takagi said, at one point lifting her eyes and blinking back tears.
After the race, she hugged her sister and teammate Nana, who wept.
"It's very difficult to talk right now, I can't think very clearly," said a downtrodden Nana.
The Takagi sisters slowed as they realised Sato had fallen, raising their hands in despair before crossing the finish line 11.03 seconds behind the Canadians, who finished the race in an Olympic record time of 2 minutes 53.44 seconds.
Sato could be seen putting her hands together in apology towards her compatriots as tears streamed down her face after the race, and was nowhere to be seen when her teammates stood on the podium looking sombre.
Canada were left to celebrate their country's first gold medal in the event and their first podium finish since they won silver in Turin 2006.
"We are still thinking, is this real?" said Isabelle Weidemann, who won bronze in the women's 3,000m and silver in the 5,000m.
"We knew we had a strong team, we knew we could put pressure on Japan and all the other strong teams today. I don't know if we'd thought about this possible outcome."The fancied Netherlands team, who counted gold medallists Irene Schouten and Ireen Wust in their ranks, took bronze after crashing out in their semi-final against Canada.