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.Follow @nzaccardi