Our View: Heather shines for High Point

Jan. 27, 2014 @ 09:22 PM

Something unprecedented in the history of High Point is about to occur — and it will unfold on an international stage while the world is watching.

High Point native Heather Richardson is getting ready to participate in the Winter Olympics, this time in faraway Sochi, Russia. And although she’ll be a long way from home, High Pointers and folks all around will be paying close attention. It will be her second appearance in the Olympics, which will go one better than High Point’s other Olympic athletes, distance runner Harry Williamson, who competed in Berlin in the 1936 Summer Olympic Games and soccer standout Eddie Pope, who competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

In just over two weeks, Richardson, a 2007 graduate of High Point Central High School, will put on her speed skates and begin her quest for Olympic gold, a journey that began nearly seven years ago. After competing in inline skating during high school with the U.S. World Team, Richardson traded in her inline skates after graduation and committed herself to the ice and the U.S. National Speedskating program based in Kearns, Utah.

Richardson proved to be a U.S. rising star in the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, British Columbia. And since her strong showings four years ago, she continued to advance to become one of the United States’ and the world’s top speedskaters.

And in two weeks, she’ll get the chance to go again for Olympic gold and glory, just as she did in Vancouver four years ago. But this time, what was just a long-shot dream then, is surely within reach for this 24-year-old champ who finished first in her three qualifying events at the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Trials a few weeks ago in Kearns.

During the trials, Richardson won races at 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters, with her friend, rival, roommate and teammate Brittany Bowe finishing second. U.S. speedskating observers peg the two as gold medal contenders in Sochi, with one writer for The Associated Press saying it may come down to the pair racing each other to the finish for gold.

“I definitely think there’s going to be pressure,” Richardson said, reflecting on a question from the AP reporter about this being her second Olympics. “I’ve just got to remember to take deep breaths and have fun. That’s when I skate my best.”

But back here in High Point as Richardson speeds around the icy oval, there instead will be more holding of breath, certainly in anticipation of seeing the hometown hero shine on ice.

Good luck, Heather. Breath deeply and have fun.