AMSTERDAM - Miho Takagi became the first Japanese woman to win the speedskating allround world championships after beating defending champion Ireen Wust in a thrilling 1,500-metre race on Saturday.
The 1,500 win was partial revenge for Takagi, who was beaten into silver medal position by Wust over the same distance at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
"I am very, very happy," Takagi said. "I am proud."
The world title capped a great season for Takagi, who won an Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit when Japan beat the Netherlands in the final.
"She has shown all season that she's really good,' Wust said. "She has more speed than me."
Wust won the closing 5,000 to finish second overall, falling just short in her chase for a seventh allround title. Fellow Dutchwoman Annouk van der Weijden ended third.
Takagi laid the foundation for her win on Friday with a blistering fast 500-metre win at Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium.
Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin was 17th in a time of 2:05.32.
In the men's competition, Dutch skater Sven Kramer is gunning for his 10th allround title, and faces a tough challenge from training partner Patrick Roest and Norwegian Sverre Lunde Pedersen.
Roest won the opening 500 in 36.97 and Pedersen edged Kramer in the 5,000, winning in 6 minutes, 33.81 seconds. Those results left Roest atop the overall standings, Pedersen in second, and Kramer third ahead of the 1,500 and 10,000 races on Sunday.
Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu of Sherbrooke, Que., sat 11th in the standings, Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was 15th and Calgary's Ted-Jan Bloemen sat 19th.
"Skating in the rain is a really miserable experience for a guy like me, who typically enjoys the fast ice and perfect conditions of the Calgary Oval," said Morrison. "But despite the weather, it was a pretty amazing atmosphere today. The cheering fans provided good motivation to go out in the rain and do my best."
Bloemen won two medals at the Pyeongchang Olympics last month — gold in the men's 10,000 and silver in the 5,000.
He struggled in the shorter distance at the Allround Championships on Saturday.
"For me, the 5,000 was a hard race," Bloemen said. "I couldn't use my usual technique in these conditions. But I'm not reading too much into these results, because I haven't trained to overcome conditions like this. My goal was to skate fast at the Olympics."
The championships are a test of skaters' all-round prowess, with races over 500, 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 metres for women and 500, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 metres for men.
They also were a test of how they coped with warm and rainy conditions that left puddles all over the oval at a championships being staged outdoors for the first time since 2001.
"It's a shame, but we have to deal with it," Roest said. "It's outdoor skating, you never know what the weather will do."
— With files from the Canadian Press