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Heather Bergsma, Joey Mantia close speed skating worlds with titles

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Only the Netherlands earned more gold medals at the world single distance championships than the U.S., which bodes well for a PyeongChang bounce-back for American speed skaters who struggled in Sochi.

Sochi Olympians Heather Bergsma and Joey Mantia finished off worlds with titles in the 1500m and mass start, respectively. The U.S. earned four medals overall at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea.

Bergsma bagged three of them, setting up to perhaps be the top U.S. medal winner in any sport at the PyeongChang Olympics. Full worlds results are here.

A day after winning the 1000m, Bergsma outdueled Dutch star Ireen Wuest in the final pair of the 1500m on Sunday. Bergsma, with more early speed than 3000m champ Wuest, was six tenths of a second ahead going into the last lap.

“I definitely had to dig deep in the second lap, because if she would already have been ahead of me, mentally I would have been shut down,” Bergsma said, according to a press release.

Wuest, the most decorated woman in Sochi with five medals, closed in the final 400 meters but not enough, crossing one tenth after Bergsma.

“This was the exact draw that I did not want, starting in the inner lane versus Heather,” Wuest said. “Then it was up to me to stay calm and try to catch up in the last part of the race, which I managed, but the finish line came 30 meters too soon. Well, I guess you can’t change it in a 1530m, can you?”

Bergsma, who moved to the Netherlands after missing the medals in Sochi and married Dutch Olympic 10,000m champion Jorrit Bergsma, now owns world titles in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m in her career. Plus a world sprint title and the world record in the 1500m.

Later Sunday, Bergsma took bronze in the mass start, a new Olympic event where skaters race in a pack rather than in pairings. The mass start is similar to short track speed skating, except on a larger oval and at a longer distance (16 laps, which takes about eight minutes).

Mantia edged France’s Alexis Contin for gold in the men’s mass start Sunday, his first Olympic or world medal after transitioning from inline skating to the ice in 2011.

Four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis placed 11th in the 1500m won by the Netherlands’ Kjeld Nuis. Davis was fifth in the 1000m on Saturday.

In 2013, the U.S. earned three medals (no golds) at worlds at the 2014 Olympic venue. Then in Sochi, the top individual American finish was seventh, marking the first medal-less Winter Games by U.S. long-track speed skaters since 1984.

MORE: PyeongChang Olympics daily schedule highlights

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir recall their childhood dating breakup (video)

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Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir discussed their brief dating relationship early on in their ice-dance partnership in an interview on “Ellen” published Tuesday.

No, they are not currently dating, as was reported when they won their second Olympic ice dance title in PyeongChang.

“If we were, we would announce it here,” Virtue said on “Ellen.”

“We did date,” Moir said, adding jokingly, “In order to advance our partnership, we had to put the hot-and-heavy relationship on the side.”

“Which meant you had to break up with me,” Virtue said.

“I broke up with Tessa, and none of my friends have let me live that down since,” Moir said.

So they did date.

“If you can call it that,” Moir said. “I think mostly our families were laughing at us. They kind of set us up. It was the same thing, actually, when we started ice dancing. They just kind of us put us together. I think it was for their amusement. Then, all of a sudden, 20 years later we’re still doing it, so joke’s on them.”

Virtue and Moir discussed their brief dating period in their 2011 book, Tessa and Scott: Our Journey from Childhood Dream to Gold:

“My sister and Scott’s cousin decided it would be kind of cute if we were ‘dating,'” Tessa says. “And I liked Scott. I don’t know if he liked me, but we just went along with it.”

“Were we not the hot topic by week four, though?” Scott asks rhetorically. “We were the big new couple on campus. We ‘dated’ for eight months. Why do I remember that? Because eight months is a long time for eight and ten years old. We probably only had two phone conversations and I remember my brothers talking me through the phone call with her, I was so nervous. We’d sit there and not say anything. It was a cool thing to do: phone and talk to each other.”

“Dating” was a little strong. It was the summer of 1997, and heading into grades there and five they were too young for even puppy love, so it was just a label that others attached to them, mostly for their own amusement.

Tessa talked about Scott during school hours at Stoneybrook Public School, but when Scott’s friends at Oxbow Public School found out about Tessa, he somehow felt he had to “end” it. His friends called Tessa and quickly handed the phone back to Scott, who blurted, “I don’t want to go out with you any more,” then hung up.

And although for the next dozen years every reporter and skating fan, and eventually, millions of TV viewers, tried to link them as boyfriend and girlfriend, that has been the extend of their romantic history.

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Two Italian cities discuss possible Winter Olympic bid

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ROME (AP) — Milan and Turin are in discussions with the Italian Olympic Committee about a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino sent a letter of interest to CONI on Sunday despite divisions in her own party, the populist 5-Star Movement, on a candidacy. Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala met with CONI president Giovanni Malago on Monday.

“I think Milan has everything required but we won’t do anything without a government and its approval,” Sala said Tuesday.

Italy awaits a new government in the next few weeks following a national election this month that yielded no clear majority.

CONI is still recovering from its dropped Rome bid for the 2024 Summer Games, which ended following staunch opposition from Mayor Virginia Raggi, who also represents the 5-Star Movement.

Among the cities which have shown preliminary interest for 2026: Calgary, Canada; Sion, Switzerland; and Sapporo, Japan.

Turin hosted the Winter Games in 2006. The 2026 host will be decided by the International Olympic Committee in Milan in September 2019.

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