Olympian Richardson puts training on ice while she visits family

Mar. 26, 2014 @ 10:11 PM

She may not have brought any Olympic medals home to High Point, but Heather Richardson did bring her Olympic mettle with her.
The U.S. speedskater and High Point native, who surprisingly came up empty at the 2014 Winter Olympics last month in Sochi, Russia, returned home to High Point this week, where she pronounced herself more determined than ever to make it back to the Olympics in 2018.
“It’s so hard to give it up when I still love it,” Richardson said Wednesday afternoon. “And I’m so motivated now, because I know what I’m capable of — it just didn’t happen (in Sochi). It’s back to work for four more years.”
In the meantime, though, Richardson has enjoyed spending some down time with her family since arriving back in High Point on Tuesday evening. She’ll be here through April 30 and will be joined next week by her fiance, Dutch speedskater Jorrit Bergsma, who won a gold medal and a bronze in Sochi.
Also next week, High Point University will host a “Hometown Hero Celebration” to honor Richardson’s Olympic appearance and her recent World Cup championship. The event will be held April 3 on the HPU campus, and the public is invited, but reservations are required.
“It was really exciting to hear that they wanted to do that,” she said, “because after being so disappointed at the games, I thought I’d just be going home to see my family and friends. It’s so nice to know that people here still support me.”
Richardson, one of the top speedskaters in the world, had been expected to win at least one medal — and possibly two or three — in Sochi, but she finished a disappointing eighth in the 500 meters and seventh in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter events.
A month later, the 25-year-old skater still struggles to explain what went wrong.
“My expectations were extremely high,” she said, “so I don’t know what happened. I’ve tried to think back — what did I do different going into these Olympics? You can’t pinpoint just one thing.”
One thing she’s convinced of, though, is that her poor showing had little, if anything, to do with the new skin suits the speedskating team debuted in Sochi, despite a lot of speculation — in the media and elsewhere — to the contrary.
“I think people wanted to point fingers at that, but I don’t want to say I didn’t get on the podium because of the skin suit,” Richardson said. “I skated the best I could — I just wasn’t the best that day.”
In addition to training for what would be her third Olympics, Richardson has some major life changes right around the corner. When she leaves High Point at the end of April, she’ll be moving to the Netherlands with Bergsma. They plan to marry in 2015 — “I’m thinking around May,” she said — and they want to have children, but not until after the 2018 Olympics.
In the meantime, they’re planning to get a puppy, a Japanese spitz they’ll name Yuki, which is Japanese for “snow.”
Living in the Netherlands will be a challenge, Richardson said, because her Dutch is “horrible.”
“I just spent two weeks there, and (Bergsma) had all these sponsor deals he had to go and do, so I was just sitting there the whole time and listening, so I would pick up on little things,” she said. “I’ve got a lot to learn.”
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579

Want to go?

High Point University will host a “Hometown Hero Celebration” for Heather Richardson on April 3, beginning at 11:45 a.m., at Hayworth Fine Arts Center on the HPU campus.
A complimentary lunch will be provided.
A limited number of complimentary tickets are available by calling 841-9209 or emailing reservations@highpoint.edu.