Heather Richardson Fails to Medal in Women's 1500m Final at Sochi 2014 Olympics

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 11:  Heather Richardson of the United States react after competing during the Women's 500m Race 1 of 2 Speed Skating event during day 4 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Adler Arena Skating Center on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The 1,500-meter race was viewed as Heather Richardson's worst event heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the American long-track speedskater wasn't able to shake that perception as she failed to medal at Adler Arena Skating Center on Sunday.   

Here's a look at the top 10 finishers:

Women's 1500m Final
1Jorien ter Mores1:53.51Netherlands
2Ireen Wust1.54.09Netherlands
3Lotte van Beek1.54.54Netherlands
4Marrit Leenstra1.56.40Netherlands
5Yuliya Skokova1:56.45Russia
6Katarzyna Bachleda-Curus1:57.18Poland
7Heather Richardson1:57.60United States
8Yekaterina Lobysheva1:57.70Russia
9Olga Fatkulina1:57.88Russia
10Yekaterina Shikhova1.59.09Russia

US Speedskating provided Richardson's official time, which by the time she finished, was actually good for third place:

Richardson was considered a colossal disappointment heading into the 1,500 due to her failure to medal in the 500- and 1,000-meter races. The hope was that Richardson would be able to move past those poor performances, but they seemed as though they may have adversely affected her as she tried to salvage things in the 1,500-meter event.

Despite the fact that there was clearly outside pressure on Richardson to perform well in the 1,500, she didn't put any extra pressure on herself outwardly. Deep down inside, however, it may have been a different story.

According to Jeff Mills of the News & Record, Richardson felt as though her lack of success in the 1,500 was a blessing in disguise going in.

I jumped up one spot (in the 1,000). Maybe I can jump up one more for the 1,500. Who knows? I've only been on the podium once (this season) in the 1,500, so I go into this race with no pressure. I can relax and have fun.

Even without the pressure and hype that surrounded her in the 500 and 1,000, Richardson couldn't elevate her game enough. Her lone top-three performance on the World Cup circuit in the 1,500 came in Salt Lake City, Utah, but she was unable to channel that showing on Sunday.

For those who follow the sport closely, it wasn't a surprising result, especially considering what happened in the 1,000-meter race. Richardson was a heavy favorite in that event with American teammate Brittany Bowe also very much in the mix.

Richardson and Bowe had dominated the 1,000 this season, so it was a huge shock that neither skater reached the podium in Sochi, per Nick Zaccardi of NBC Olympic Talk:

Even though Richardson only came in seventh in the 1,000-meter competition she was encouraged. Richardson simply chalked up her disappointing finish to other skaters improving significantly upon their normal times, according to Mills.

Other countries are just getting really fast. That shows, because me and Brittany (Bowe) were (ranked) 1-2 going into the race and we finished seventh and eighth. We gave it our best shot. I felt fine. Normal. It felt like a normal 1,000.

Unlike her competition, though, Richardson couldn't improve upon her usual times significantly. The Sochi track has been a fast one, so Richardson's normal runs weren't good enough in any of the three individual disciplines.

In many ways, Richardson's issues in the 500 and 1,000 may have served as deterrents rather than motivating factors. Richardson knew that she needed to come through with something special in order to prevent these Olympics from being a massive failure for USA speedskating, and having that weight on her shoulders may have adversely impacted her skating in the 1,500.

Richardson still has a chance to become an Olympic medalist as the women's team pursuit finals will take place on Feb. 22. Richardson was part of an American team that finished third in a Salt Lake City World Cup race, which means that the Americans could be a factor.

Team USA has struggled as a whole, but there is a ton of talent present that could break out at any time. If it doesn't, then this may go down as one of the biggest collective failures in recent American Olympic history.

Richardson was expected to win at least one medal in Sochi, and while she still has a puncher's chance, things are looking bleak for the 24-year-old superstar.


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