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US speedskaters’ 0-for-Sochi streak continues

USA's Heather Richardson competes during the Ladies 500 meter speed skating race at Adler Arena during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, February 11, 2014.

SOCHI, Russia — There are no U.S. medal contenders in the men’s speedskating 10,000-meter on Tuesday.

The women’s 5,000-meter on Wednesday doesn’t have an American in the medal mix either.

The women’s 1,500-meter race Sunday presented the last realistic chance for the U.S. to win an individual medal in Sochi and salvage whatever’s left of a disastrous Olympics.

So Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, ranked 1-2 in the world, did just what you’d expect a world-class U.S. skater to do here: They bombed.

Richardson was seventh in 1:57.60 Bowe was 14th in 1:58.31. Jilleanne Rookard, a third American skater, was 18th in 1:59.15.

Just as the U.S. has been very bad at these Games, the Netherlands have been very good.

Jorien ter Mors set an Olympic record in 1:53.41, giving the Dutch their Olympic-record 16 speedskating medals at Adler Arena.

The record broke a mark that has stood since the 2002 Games of Salt Lake City set by Germany’s Anni Friesinger of 1:54.02. For ter Mors to break a record set at altitude while racing at sea-level punctuates Dutch dominance. Canadian Cindy Klassen’s world record of 1:51.79, also set in Utah, is safe.

Bowe and Richardson’s results are the latest setback for the 17 U.S. skaters who arrived on the heels of a prolific World Cup season that set high expectations for Sochi. Every day here has brought them closer to becoming the first U.S. speedskating team since 1984 to win no medals.

After swapping new suits for old suits, the results show the team is no closer to answering the question of what’s plaguing them. The reason remains a mystery.

“It could have been a loss of momentum after a few under-performances,” U.S. national coach Ryan Shimabukuro said, noting it may “just be the perfect storm right now that’s going the other way for us.”

Ter Mors’s victory gave the Dutch its third sweep in speedskating in Sochi (in fact, the Netherlands finished 1-4 Sunday) Ireen Wust winning silver (1:54.09) and Lotte van Beek bronze (1:54.54).

Despite missing the podium, Richardson, 24, and Bowe, 25, said they were satisfied with their races.

But unlike the U.S. men who struggled in Saturday’s 1,000, they said the discussion surrounding their collective struggles hasn’t been a distraction.

“Nothing’s changed from today or yesterday as it has from the first race of the (World Cup) season,” Bowe said

Richardson has had a harder time.

“I went home and cried forever about (Thursday’s) 1,000, but I have to let go at some point,” Richardson said.

After Sunday, she has another disappointing performance to get past. But on the U.S. squad, she’s hardly alone.
 

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