Richardson shines in speedskating season opener
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) -- Heather Richardson won the 500 and 3,000-meter races Friday on the first day of the U.S. Single Distance Long Track Speedskating Championships.
Richardson, of High Point, N.C., had a winning time of 37.96 seconds in the 500 and 4:09.39 in the longer race at the Pettit National Ice Center.
In the men's competition, Mitchell Whitmore, of Waukesha, Wis., won the 500 in 35.12 and Brian Hansen, of Glenview, Ill., the 5,000 in 6:27.80. Both competed in the 2010 Olympics.
The three days of competition are also being used to qualify skaters for the U.S. World Cup team. The World Cup season begins Nov. 16 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Richardson, a 2010 Olympian who won seven medals in world cup competition last season, was pleased with her 500 victory because she had been having trouble with her starts.
"It was really good for me," Richardson said. "It (the start) was very snappy."
Richardson said she was able to improve her start by relaxing and concentrating on getting away from the line quickly.
Richardson was surprised by her win in the 3,000 because she normally does not compete at that distance.
"I only skated it because I want to improve my endurance, finish stronger in the last lap of my other races," she said.
Whitmore defeated Tucker Fredricks of Janesville, Wis., a two-time Olympian who normally is the fastest U.S. skater at that distance.
"I don't think he's skating his best," Whitmore said. "Obviously, it's good to beat him. But I want to beat him when he's on top of his game."
Shani Davis of Chicago, who has won gold and silver medals at the past two Olympics at 1,000 and 1,500 meters, was third in the 500 in 35.60. He was happy with his finish.
"Overall, for right now, it's a great race," said Davis, who is still getting into shape for the upcoming world cup season. "It's a stepping process, one step at a time. I'm where I need to be right now."
Lauren Cholewinski of York, S.C., (38.470) and third Brittany Bowe (38.590) of Ocala, Fla., finished second and third in the women's 500.
The 5,000 victory was big for Hansen. Although Hansen has been on the world cup team since 2009 and went to the 2010 Olympics, it was his first victory in the single distance event.
"It was a really good race, it was good to win it," Hansen said. "I'm really happy."
The 22-year-old said his hard work for more than a dozen years of skating is starting to pay off.
"That's a huge step for me," Hansen said of the victory. "I'm skating well now. I just have to carry it through to the world cups."
Emery Lehman of Oak Park, Ill., (6:28.56) and Jonathan Kuck, Champaign, Ill., (6:29.86) were second and third in the 5,000.