Speed Skating: Kodaira Wins 500 Individual Distance Title

Speed skating: Kodaira wins 500 individual distance titleJapan's Nao Kodaira placed third in the women's 500 meters in the season-ending World Cup, giving her enough to win her first career individual overall distance title on Sunday.

Kodaira timed 38.49 seconds, behind Americans Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, who were first and second respectively, in 37.77 and 37.97. Olympic champion Lee Sang Hwa of South Korea did not compete.

Kodaira added 106 points to give her a total of 926 to surpass runner-up Lee's 880. Richardson was third overall.

"I wanted to leave a testament that I fought in all 12 races in the six World Cup meets. You can't win the individual overall distance title unless you produce solid results," said Kodaira.

She was the first Japanese athlete of the Olympic competition to reach the top podium spot at the distance since men's speed skater Hiroyasu Shimizu accomplished the feat for the third time in 2001.

Kodaira is only the second Japanese woman to take top honors in the 500 since Kyoko Shimazaki in 1991.

"It is a great honor. I am happy that I could follow in the footsteps of a great (speed skater like Shimazaki). I still want to aim even higher," she said.