By Hiromu Namiki / Japan News Staff Writer GANGNEUNG — Budding speed skater Seitaro Ichinohe finished ninth in the men’s 5,000 meters at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Sunday, raising hopes for the team pursuit, in which Ichinohe and Japan are seeking to medal.
Ichinohe, a 22-year-old student at Shinshu University, managed to keep his 400-meter splits under 30 seconds until the final few laps to clock 6 minutes 16.55 seconds, his best time in low-lying rinks.
After crossing the finish line, Ichinohe looked tired but satisfied as he waved to fans and pumped his fist.
“It felt so good to be cheered by this crowd,” Ichinohe said.
Hailing from Bihoro, Hokkaido, Ichinohe initially focused on short-distance races during elementary school. He described himself at that time as a “mediocre skater,” and had thought of quitting the sport around the time he entered junior high school.
However, his father persuaded him to continue, so Ichinohe began competing in long-distance races, in which his potential started to bloom.
He narrowly missed a spot in the 5,000 meters at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, losing to his same-age rival Shane Williamson by a mere second in the national qualifying race. The loss made him determined to make the Pyeongchang Olympics.
In December last year, Ichinohe marked a new national record of 6:12.80 at a World Cup meet.
Both Ichinohe and Williamson were chosen as team pursuit members for the Pyeongchang Games.