U.S. speed skater Heather Bergsma won her first World Cup race of the Olympic season, but it came after the top skater this fall crashed in Calgary on Saturday.
Bergsma, the reigning world 1000m and 1500m champion, clocked 1:13:37 to prevail by .33 of a second over Russian Yekaterina Shikhova.
After posting her leading time, the two-time Olympian Bergsma watched as Japanese favorite Nao Kodaira hit the ice and slid into padding in the final pair (video here).
Kodaira, who had won all six World Cup 500m and 1000m races this season, eventually got up and finished her race. She was a half-second faster than Bergsma after the first 200m split before crashing.
Bergsma was the best skater at 1000m and 1500m last year, also claiming the season-long World Cup titles in each distance.
But Japanese skaters came out firing this fall. Kodaira, who took 500m gold and 1000m silver at last season’s worlds, and Miho Takagi combined to win the first eight World Cup races over 500m, 1000m and 1500m.
The 28-year-old Bergsma is the best hope to win the first female U.S. Olympic speed skating medal since 2002 come PyeongChang.
The World Cup continues with 500m, 1500m and mass start races in Calgary on Sunday.
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