Richardson wins 1,000, takes world sprint title
Heather Richardson was so nervous at the start of the World Sprint Championships her legs were shaking at the line.
By Sunday, she had de-stressed, propping up her legs in the locker room between races then skating a tactically perfect 1,000 meters.
That gold in the final individual event, combined with a pair of bronze medals Saturday, helped her become the first American woman to win the World Sprint Championships since Jennifer Rodriguez in 2005.
"Yesterday was so tense," an elated Richardson said Sunday. "I just took all that pressure off me and said skate and have fun today."
The overall title was the biggest victory of her career.
While 23-year-old Richardson was all smiles afterward, Michel Mulder of the Netherlands was a jumble of emotions after he claimed second place in the men's 1,000 meters on Sunday to win the men's overall title — just 4 1/2 months after he captured the world title for inline skating.
He triumphantly raised both arms, hugged teammates and coaches during a victory lap and shed some tears of joy.
"It's one of the hardest competitions mentally and I made it through it, " said Mulder, who edged Finland's Pekka Koskela and Dutch teammate Hein Otterspeeer for the overall title with 136.790 points.
Asked which title means more, Mulder said they are "exactly the same."
But he acknowledged long-track skating on ice is more popular "so the pressure was a bit higher," especially considering this was his debut at the World Sprint Championships.
"I had two ways to go, enjoy the first time being in the championship but also I knew I was in good shape and really wanted to go for a podium," Mulder said.
He was in first place after the first day and made sure he stayed there.
Sunday's win didn't change his plans.
He'll work to defend his inline skating title next year then prepare for the Olympic season, and try to get through trials against a strong Dutch team.
Sunday was time to celebrate.
American Brittany Bowe, another former inline skater, also was celebrating a breakout weekend.
But she had to deal with "what if" after her final 1,000.
She finished fifth Sunday in 1 minute, 13.83 seconds, but lost valuable time during a crossover when Czech skater Karolina Erbanova impeded her. Erbanova was disqualified.
"My first lap felt really good," Bowe said. "That was the fastest lap I had in competition thus far and going in the outer lane I was still picking up speed and carrying my speed really well."
But Bowe would have to ease up, stand up and practically push off Erbanova to get through the lane change.
She figures it cost her one-half of a second.
"That's racing," Bowe said. "It's better now than at World Championships, single distances or the Olympics."
Plus, she was happy to celebrate with Richardson, her training partner and friend.
"Hopefully we can keep pushing each other and be 1-2 in Sochi," Bowe said about the 1,000.
Canada's Christine Nesbitt, the reigning Olympic champion and world-record holder, may have something to say about that.
She easily won Saturday's race.
On Sunday, she was second to Richardson, who finished in 1:13.19. Nesbitt clocked 1:13.28 and China's Hong Zhang was third in 1:13.64.
American long-track coach Ryan Shimabukuro knew Richardson had it in her.
"Even though she's deserving of the title, she's got to go get it," he said. "I'm glad that she really attacked it and was aggressive today."
Richardson won the overall title with 148.015 points. Defending champion Jing Yu of China was second overall with 148.280 points, and South Korea's Lee Sang-hwa third at 148.560.
"I can breathe now," Shimabukuro said. "Last time I was this nervous was the second 500 for the men in Torino, with Joey (Cheek) having a gold medal on the line. I'm happy it all worked out and that she was able to skate the races like I knew she could."
So was Bowe.
"She had so much pressure on her this weekend, maybe her nerves did get to her a little yesterday," Bowe said. "All the media, the fans, everything she was expected to do. But she came back and did unbelievable and put down some really great times. It was a heck of a performance."
Earlier Sunday, Lee set a track record in winning the 500.
Lee, who set a world record last weekend at the World Cup in Calgary, finished in 36.99 seconds to edge Dutch skater Thijsje Oenema. Oenema set a Dutch national record by skating a 37.06.
The old record for the Utah Olympic Oval was 37.00, set in 2007 by Germany's Jenny Wolf.
Japan's Joji Kato won his second 500 of the competition Sunday, finishing in 34.29 to edge Canadians Jamie Gregg (34.50) and Gilmore Junio (34.53).