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Surprise winner takes speedskating gold in 1000 meters

Published On: Feb 13 2014 09:56:10 AM CST
Heather Richardson, 500 meters speedskating, Sochi

Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

America's speedskating drought in Sochi continued on Thursday, with Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, the top U.S. skaters in the the 1,000 meters, finishing in seventh and eighth in the event.

Richardson was seen as a contender for gold in the event and Bowe was considered a strong contender for a medal.

Instead, China's Hong Zhang took home gold for her first Olympic medal, while the Netherlands continued its domination of the speedskating events in Sochi, with Dutch skaters Ireen Wust and Margot Boer winning silver and bronze respectively.

Wust previously won gold in the 3,000 meters in Sochi and Boer won bronze in the 500 meters. Their medals are just four of the 12 that Dutch speedskaters have won in Sochi so far, including four gold.

After the 1,000 meters, the Netherlands stood in second place in overall medals earned in Sochi, tied with the United States at 12. All of those medals have come in speedskating events.

The U.S., meanwhile, has failed to medal in a speedskating event, with expected contenders Shani Davis and Brian Hansen joining Richardson and Bowe in coming up short so far.

Both Richardson and Bowe came into the games hoping to become the first American woman to medal in long-track at the Olympics since Jennifer Rodriguez won two bronze medals and Christine Witty a gold in 2002.

Earlier this week in Sochi, Richardson finished eighth in the 500 meters while Bowe finished 13th.

Richardson, a 24-year-old North Carolina native, made her Olympic debut four years ago in Vancouver, where she finished sixth in the 500-meter race. She also finished ninth in the 1,000 meters and 16th in the 1,500 meters in 2010.

She also has claimed medals at the last two World Sprint Championships, winning gold in 2013 and finishing with bronze in her title defense last month. She currently ranks first in both the overall World Cup standings and in the 1,000 meters.

Brittany Bowe is in her first Olympics at age 25. The Florida native spent the 2010 Winter Olympics playing basketball as a senior starting guard for Florida Atlantic University.

While the former inline speedskater only stepped on the ice in skate in July 2010, she has quickly found her place, earning 10 World Cup medals and setting the world record at 1,000 meters and the American record at 1,500 meters.

Bowe earned silver medals in the women’s 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters in the national trials at the Utah Olympic Oval, earning her spot on the U.S. team by finishing each race just behind Richardson, her friend and roommate.