American speedskater Heather Richardson's first Olympic medal will have to wait.
Competing in Tuesday's 500-meter final in Sochi, Richardson's finished in 8th place (via Beth Harris of the Associated Press), as the Americans continue to come up empty handed in speedskating:
Richardson spoke about her performance following the event (via Julia Bagg of NBC 6):
Richardson's lack of success benefits Lee Sand Hwa of South Korea, who captured gold with a total time of 74.70 (via the BBC). Olga Fatkulina of Russia won silver (+0.36) and Margot Boer of the Netherlands won bronze (+0.78).
One of the biggest medal hopes coming into Sochi, Richardson's somewhat unorthodox trek to the Olympics has been well-documented. She spent much of her youth as an inline skater, never even entering the field of speed skating until she was 18 years old. The last six years have been a whirlwind, going from "Bambi on Ice," per John Powers of the Boston Globe, to one of the handful of best women speedskaters in the world.
Richardson came into having earned gold World Championship gold in 2013 and bronze earlier this year in the sprint, making her a certain contender for a medal. The Associated Press projected her a bronze medalist in the 500 meters, behind Sang-Hwa and Fatkulina.
Nevertheless, there was understandable skepticism that she would pull it off. Richardson, 24, is making her Olympic debut in Sochi. With the field already being loaded to the brim with elite competition, the pressure of being an Olympian for the first time couldn't have helped matters. But like she has throughout her still young career, Richardson showed resolve and seemed comfortable on the Olympic stage.
Richardson's disappointment won't last very long. She is scheduled to compete in the women's 1,000-meter speedskate on Wednesday, where she remains an odds-on favorite to win gold. The United States has chance to sweep gold at the 1,000 meters, assuming Shani Davis does as expected.
Davis is the two-time defending champion in the 1,000-meter race and is the overwhelming favorite for a third. He would become the first male in U.S. history to win the same event in three consecutive Games.
Olga Fatkulina and fellow American Brittany Bowe are expected to be Richardson biggest competition in the 1,000 meters, giving the United States two different shots at gold.
“We’re relaxed around each other,” Richardson said of her relationship with Bowe, per Powers. “We live with each other and just hang out. We’re just like family. Of course we both want to win but we just go out and skate our own races each time.”
On Tuesday, Richardson skated her own race and wound up 8th. We'll have to see if she can do better later in the week.
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