Heather Richardson finishes sweep
WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Heather Richardson won the 1,500 meters Sunday to complete a sweep of all five races at the U. S. Long Track Speedskating Championships.
Richardson's time of 1 minute, 55.26 seconds shattered the Pettit National Ice Center mark of 1:57.55 set on Jan. 14, 2007, by Canada's Kristina Groves. Richardson also won both 500s, the 1,000 and 3,000 in the three-day competition.
Second-place finisher Brittany Bowe also eclipsed the old mark in 1:56.86, while Shani Davis, who won silver at 1,500 meters in the last two Winter Olympics, won the men's race in 1:44.94.
The track record was Richardson's second in the competition. She also erased the 1,000-meter mark set in 2005 by Olympic medalist Jennifer Rodriguez.
After needing oxygen for a short time after her record-setting effort, Richardson said she still felt "so good" after capturing all five races.
"I'm excited to be done," she said. "I'm very happy with how I skated."
Richardson has a week to recuperate before the World Cup team leaves for Heerenveen, Netherlands, and the first World Cup on Nov. 2.
Like other skaters around the world, Richardson is already looking ahead to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"I'm definitely thinking about it," she said. "It's always in my mind."
Richardson believes Sochi will be easier than her first Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver, which was such an overwhelming experience that she had trouble concentrating on her skating.
"This time should be better," she said.
Richardson, who won seven World Cup races last season, and four-time medalist Davis are the U. S. team's favorites to medal in Sochi. But national team coach Ryan Shimabukuro said several other skaters should be considered medal contenders.
Shimabukuro said Bowe, Brian Hansen and Jonathan Kuck are also possible contenders. And another past Olympian -- Elli Ochowicz -- may be added to the list in the future.
Ochowicz, a three-time Olympian, was named to the World Cup team Sunday just a few months after ending a two-year retirement. The daughter of Sheila Young Ochowicz, who won gold, silver, and bronze medals in the 1976 Winter Olympics, returned to skating in an attempt to medal like her mom.
Shimabukuro, who helped her in her comeback in Salt Lake City, said Ochowicz has the ability to contend for a medal.
"That's her goal but she's not in a position yet to say for sure," he said. "But we're working hard toward that."
Although many speedskaters worldwide are already dreaming of Olympic glory, Davis is not.
"It's so far down the road," he said. "I know it's only a year-and-a-half away but a lot can happen within that time. It is more important for me right now to worry about the present. Once the Olympics come, with the right preparation, it should be fun."
After winning consecutive golds in the 1,000 and silvers in the 1,500, Davis will go to Sochi with high expectations riding on his skate blades. But even Davis admits medaling again in the events, especially winning the gold that has twice eluded him, will be extremely difficult.
"The 1,500 is one of the hardest races to win," Davis said. "And to win a double gold medal in the thousand and fifteen is very difficult because they are closest together on the Olympic schedule. So, I just want to go there and put myself in the best position possible. And if I win, I win."
In addition to Richardson, Bowe, and Ochowicz, the rest of the seven-woman World Cup team includes Lauren Cholewinski, Jilleanne Rookard, Sugar Todd and Maria Lamb.
The nine skaters joining Davis on the men's team are Kuck, Hansen, Mitchell Whitmore, Tucker Fredricks, Jonathan Garcia, Patrick Meek, Joey Mantia, Trevor Marsicano and Emery Lehman.