HEERENVEEN, Netherlands (March 4, 2012) – Team USA skated to three gold medals to close the Essent ISU World Cup #6 in Heerenveen, Netherlands. Today’s triple podium capped an outstanding weekend netting seven total World Cup medals – five gold and two bronze.
Heather Richardson (High Point, NC) skated a 1:15.82 for gold in today’s 1000m. Dutch skaters Ireen Wust (1:16.48) and Marrit Leenstra (1:16.54) rounded out the podium in second and third, respectively. Brittany Bowe (Ocala, FL) had her best career World Cup finish today, placing 5th in the 1000m with a time of 1:16.85.
Today’s win marked Richardson’s first gold medal of the season, and her third podium of the weekend following two bronze medals in the 500m races on Friday and Saturday. Richardson is currently ranked 3rd in Overall World Cup standings in the 1000m. Bowe sits 9th overall.
“I was really happy with the way I skated and each race seems to be getting better and more relaxed,” said Richardson. “I'm excited going into the World Cup Final next week and the World Single Distance Championships."
"Heather’s victory today shows that all the work she's done over the past month to get ready for these last three competitions is paying off,” Said U.S. Speedskating Sprint Head Coach Ryan Shimabukuro. “To win in Thialf is always special, and her aggressiveness right from the gun showed exactly how much she really wanted it today. We recognize that Christine Nesbitt was absent this weekend, and we'll continue working hard as she's obviously the one to beat."
"After a good weekend of racing, I'm glad that my 5th place finish in the 1000m moved me into 9th in the overall World Cup rankings,” said Bowe. “I'm hoping to fine tune a few things this upcoming week to finish the season on a strong note as we move onto the World Cup Final in Berlin."
"Brittany wanted to end the weekend with a strong 1000m and she overcame a slow start with two strong laps to earn another top 5 finish. I'm very pleased with today's result and expect her to get better with each passing week," said Shimabukuro.
Olympic and World Champion Shani Davis (Chicago, Ill.) skated a 1:08.88 in today’s 1000m for gold, his 50th career gold medal, 35th gold medal in the 1000m, and his third straight win in the distance. Stefan Groothuis (NED) was 2nd with a time of 1:09.00, followed by Kjeld Nuis (NED) in third with a time of 1:09.05. Brian Hansen (Glenview, Ill.) finished 9th, posting 1:10.1.
Davis now ranks 2nd in overall World Cup standings, just 40 points behind leader Groothuis heading into the World Cup final in Berlin next weekend, where double points are awarded.
"This was the best race so far this season, and hopefully the BEST is yet to come," said Davis.
"It's pretty evident that all the work that Shani's done since the Fall World Cups, along with the technical adjustments he's made, has gotten him back on track. You're really starting to see the "fight" come back in him consistently and that will set him up well for the Final and World Single Distances," added Shimabukuro.
Jonathan Kuck (Champaign, Ill.) won gold in today’s Mass Start, posting 10.09.89. .35 seconds ahead of Arjen Stroetinga (NED) with 10:10.25, and Alexis Contin (FRA) in third at 10:10.31. Hansen finished 15th (10:11.65) and Joshua Wood (Sacramento, CA) placed 24th with a time of 10:39.06.
“It was a fun race and great to end the weekend on a high note,” said Kuck.
“Jonathan really played it smart today against some Dutch marathon skaters. He stayed towards the front the entire race and stayed out of trouble. When the moment was right, he launched his attack with about 500m to go and was able to maintain his gap all the way to the finish. It was quite impressive," said Shimabukuro.
Maria Lamb (River Falls, WI) placed 5th in the ladies Mass Start event with a time of 8:24.27, .80 back from today’s winner Mariska Huisman (NED) posting 8:23.46. Claudia Pechstein (GER) was 2nd with 8:24.13, and Foske T. van der Wal (NED) took 3rd at 8:23.47. Following today’s race, Lamb now ranks 4th overall in World Cup Mass Start standings.
"Finishing 4th (placing 5th in points) was not quite what I wanted, but I really wasn’t feeling good today, so all things considered I think I skated a pretty solid race,” said Lamb. “ I made some tactical errors as well, so I think I have a lot of room for improvement, and I am really looking forward to racing again next week."
"This is the second race in which Maria has shown to be right in the mix at the end of the race, and her consistency is paying off in the overall rankings. She's definitely motivated to get on the podium next weekend in Berlin in the final Mass Start race for the season,” said Shimabukuro.
Hansen ended the competition competing for Team USA in the Team Sprint, an ISU demonstration event. Paired with two skaters from Italy, Hansen’s team took 2nd in the event.
"It was a lot of fun racing three races (1000m, Mass Start and Team Sprint) in three hours today. And it was also a lot of fun being a part of the Team Sprint event with the Italians and getting second place with them," said Hansen.
Complete results from today’s races are available at http://live.isuresults.eu/2011-2012/heerenveen-2/. Team USA now travels to Berlin, Germany for next weekend’s Essent ISU World Cup Final, March 9-12. Racing from Berlin will be webcast live at http://livemanager.eurovision.edgesuite.net/isu/site/index.html