GANGNEUNG, South Korea >> Three events into the Olympic speedskating competition and the Americans remain off the podium.
The latest setback came today when world champion Heather Bergsma finished eighth in the 1,500 meters. Brittany Bowe had the highest U.S. finish of fifth, while Mia Manganello was 22nd out of 26 skaters.
Their results so far recall four years ago in Sochi when the U.S. team was blanked, a stunning result for a sport that has earned America’s most Winter Olympic medals.
Bergsma faded badly on her last lap, with her time going up 3 seconds from her previous lap.
“It was just a hard last lap,” she said in a flat voice. “It wasn’t my best race, so I can’t be super happy about it.”
Bergsma’s final time of 1 minute, 56.74 seconds was well off her personal best of 1:50.85, also the current world mark she set two years ago. She finished 2.39 seconds behind gold medalist Ireen Wust of the Netherlands.
If there was a bright spot at all, it was Bowe. She had the best result since Sochi, where no one finished higher than seventh individually.
Bowe has lost valuable training time since sustaining a concussion in July 2016 after colliding with a teammate during practice. The recovery limited her to one World Cup event before the Olympics.
“Felt great,” she said. “Best 1,500 I’ve had in a couple of years. It gives me great momentum going into my favorite race, which is the 1,000, so super happy about it.”
Bowe’s time of 1:55.54 had her in first place before she dropped to third with two pairs remaining. She got bumped off the podium by two Dutch skaters and another from Japan. Bowe’s personal best is 1:51.31.
Manganello, an Olympic rookie, had a cold in recent days, which kept her off the ice until today. She was confined to her room at the athletes village and her roommates moved elsewhere to prevent them from getting sick.
“Leading into this weekend I felt awesome, been skating really well technically,” she said. “Obviously today didn’t go as planned. I hoped for a lot better and I know I can do a lot better.”
In the women’s 3,000 on Saturday, Carljin Schoutens finished 22nd while Emery Lehman was next-to-last in the men’s 5,000 on Sunday.
Next up is the men’s 1,500 on Tuesday, with two-time silver medalist Shani Davis in his fifth Olympics. However, the 35-year-old skater appears to be a long shot to medal based on his recent results. Brian Hansen and Joey Mantia will try to reverse the U.S. fortunes, too.
“We still have a long Olympics left,” Manganello said. “We have the TP (team pursuit) to plan for, we have high expectations there, as well as the mass start.”
Over at the short track venue, 17-year-old Olympic rookie Maame Biney will try to advance through the qualifying rounds to the 500-meter final on Tuesday.
The U.S. came up empty on the first night of competition, with three-time Olympian J.R. Celski and John-Henry Krueger getting eliminated in the semifinals of the 1,500. Aaron Tran was last in the B final.