SOCHI, Russia — The United States' speedskating troubles continued Thursday at the Winter Olympics as medal contenders Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe both failed to place in the women's 1000 meters.
Richardson came in seventh, one place ahead of Bowe, with neither able to get close to the pace of the champion, Zhang Hong of China, who clinched gold with a blistering time of 1:14:02.
[Photos: U.S. survives speed skating crash]
The Netherlands continued its extraordinary run of success at the Adler Arena by clinching both remaining medals, with 3000m winner Ireen Wust clinching silver and Margot Boer taking bronze.
This event appeared to be the United States' best chance of breaking its medal drought in long track, with Richardson having won three out of four races on the World Cup circuit this season — her only defeat coming to Bowe, the current world record holder.
As Zhang paraded the Chinese flag around the arena, the two Americans were left to reflect on a disappointing evening that leaves them with only one more individual event each, the 1500m. Two more Americans, Sugar Todd and Kelly Gunther, finished 32nd and 33rd, respectively.
Hopes were high for the American team coming into the Games, thanks to the fine form of 2010 Olympian Richardson and the impressive emergence of Bowe, who was still playing college basketball four years ago before deciding to take up long track and quickly becoming world class.
Coming 24 hours after Shani Davis finished off the podium trying to defend his back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the men's 1000m, it was another blow for the program.
"I don't think anything went wrong, but the top three girls laid down some really fast times," said Bowe. "I was pretty disappointed, but you have to take it all in with perspective.
"It is unfortunate. We tried our hardest. It is about being able to perform when it counts, and this is when it counts. Unfortunately, we haven't had the results."
Richardson refused to blame the high-tech race suits that the entire U.S. team has used during this competition and could not pinpoint the reason behind the squad's struggles.
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"Me and Brittany were one and two in the world going into the race," said Richardson. "I just think other countries are getting really fast.
"I felt a little pressure going into today, but I tried to stay as calm as possible. Fitness-wise, I felt fine."
U.S. coach Ryan Shimabukuro also was careful talking about the adjustments to the suit.
"I’m not going to comment on that right now, but the fact of the matter is the competition results show where we’re at," Shimabukuro said. "It’s unfortunate. We’ve had a great lead-up into the Games, and for whatever reason right now we’re getting skunked."
Both Richardson and Bowe started in reasonable fashion and looked poised to threaten the leaders but could not generate the same level of drive as that managed by Zhang and could barely hide their disappointment at the end.
Germany's Judith Hesse, who heartbreakingly missed out on competing in the 500m when she false-started twice, almost did it again. She wobbled at the starting line and recorded another false start but got away safely the second time around and placed 11th. Her compatriot, Monique Angermueller, was not so fortunate, slipping and sliding into the barriers during her race and failing to finish.
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