US Olympic Speedskating 2014: Previewing the Men's and Women's Team Events

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US Olympic Speedskating 2014: Previewing the Men's and Women's Team Events
Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

So far, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have been marked by massive disappointment for the United States speedskating team. Just take a look at the medal count and you'll know why.

All 10 individual speedskating events have already taken place during these Winter Games, and the Americans are still waiting to make their first appearance on the podium despite a crop of talented athletes led by Shani Davis, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe.

While the U.S. men's side has a good chance at finding some redemption with a medal during the upcoming team pursuit event, the women look like a long shot to do any real damage in their competition.

Either way, both events feature some of the most entertaining races during the Winter Games, as teams of three skaters start on opposite sides of the rink and race for the fastest time, with men making eight laps and women making six.

While no races will be broadcast live on American TV, all of them can be seen live online at NBC Live Extra and will be featured during NBC's prime-time coverage at 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT on Friday and Saturday.

Here's the schedule for both events and a closer look at the prospects for the men and women athletes competing for the United States.

 

Men's Team Pursuit

Men's Team Pursuit Schedule
Event Date Time (ET)
Quarterfinals Fri., Feb. 21 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals Fri., Feb. 21 10:13 a.m.
Finals Sat., Feb. 22 8:51 a.m.

Sochi2014.com

After the Netherlands ripped through the five men's competitions by winning 12 of 15 medals and four of five golds, the men's team pursuit event has essentially been reduced to a race for second place. With their expected trio of Koen VerweijSven Kramer and Jan Blokhuijsen, the Dutch are expected to runaway with the gold.

But the United States has as good a chance as any. The men's team pursuit event has been featured at three of four ISU Grand Prix events this season, and the United States has been anchored by combinations of Davis, Brian Hansen, Jonathan Kuck and Joey Mantia en route to a pair of second-place finishes and a disappointing ninth in Berlin in December.

Davis, a Chicago native, also noted that this team has some Illinois flavor.

It seems that no one has taken the Americans disappointment in speedskating tougher than Davis, especially from comments he recently made to Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News after finishing 11th in the 1,500-meter event.

“We have no medals, man,” he told Coffey. “We have none, and the way things are looking, we might not get any. It’s sad because we’ve had a lot of potential, a lot of talent. It’s terrible; big, big, big disappointment.” 

Aside from the Americans, the other top competition figures to be a Korean team that has also been a regular on the podium during the World Cup circuit this season.

 

Women's Team Pursuit

Women's Team Pursuit Schedule
Event Date Time (ET)
Quarterfinals Fri. Feb. 21 9:23 a.m.
Semifinals Sat., Feb. 22 8:30 a.m.
Finals Sat., Feb. 22 9:14 a.m.

Sochi2014.com

Like Davis, Richardson has also been hard on herself during these disappointing Winter Games.

Jeff Mills of the Greensboro News and Record gave some perspective on Richardson's unmet expectations in Sochi:

The 24-year-old from High Point came to Russia as the gold-medal favorite in the 1,000 meters, a medal favorite in the 500 and a medal contender in the 1,500.

She will leave with no individual medals. Richardson placed eighth in the 500. She finished seventh in the 1,000. And she was seventh in the 1,500 on a Dutch-dominated Sunday on the coast of the Black Sea.

“I went home (to the Olympic Village) and cried forever about the 1,000,” Richardson said. “But I have to let it go at some point and focus on the rest of my races. That’s what I tried to do.”

At least Richardson has been able to enjoy the gold-medal success of her fiance, Dutch speedskater Jorrit Bergsma, who won the 10,000-meter event on Tuesday.

According to Oddschecker.com, though, the Americans are the biggest underdog of the women's team pursuit event.

Richardson has teamed up with friend and rival Brittany Bowe and 2010 team pursuit fourth-place finisher Jilleanne Rookard on the World Cup circuit. The team's best performance was a third-place finish in Salt Lake City in November; otherwise, the trio has finished sixth and eighth.

Given their slow times so far in Sochi, it's hard to see the American women advancing past the quarterfinals on Friday, but at least Richardson and Bowe will get to race side-by-side on the Olympic stage.

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