The U.S. speed skating flop in Sochi did not carry over.
Four different Americans won world titles between 2015 and 2017.
The top U.S. skaters in this Olympic cycle — Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe — traded 1000m and 1500m world records in 2015.
The World Cup and world championships medals make what happened in Sochi — zero medals for the first time since 1984 in the U.S.’ most successful Winter Olympic sport — stand out even more.
“Of course after Sochi we looked into, like, everything that possibly could have went wrong and tried to figure out where we went wrong, but I think it was just no one was at their best at Sochi,” Bergsma said last spring.
U.S. Speedskating determined after Sochi that several factors — not just the well-publicized Under Armour skinsuit debacle — led to poor performances from every medal hopeful.
Among them was emphasizing training at altitude despite the Olympics being held near sea level.
“It wasn’t the suits,” Bergsma said in the spring. “I just think we weren’t peaked, and mentally after one person was done, we just kept dropping.
“We’re winning in [different Under Armour] suits now, so I don’t think there’s a problem there.”
Under Armour developed suits for PyeongChang with input from athletes after wind-tunnel testing months ago.
Skaters will receive them after qualifying for the Olympics at next week’s trials near Milwaukee (NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).
They will have a full month to train in them versus the week and a half they had before Sochi. They’re similar to the suits most skaters have worn this World Cup season.
“We hated them [the 2014 Olympic suits], to be perfectly honest,” two-time U.S. Olympian Mitch Whitmore said. “These [2018 suits] we know exactly what we’re wearing going into it. We all feel very comfortable in it.”
This season has been the least successful for U.S. skaters since Sochi.
They combined for one World Cup race victory in the fall. Bowe and four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis have been kept off the podium altogether.
Japanese and Russians, plus the always dominant Dutch, are out in front.
But Americans racked up World Cup wins before the Olympics four years ago before falling behind in Sochi. Could they be timing peaks better this season?
Up to 16 skaters could qualify for the Olympic team at trials with the best medal hopes in the 1000m, 1500m and mass start.
Bergsma, eyeing her third Olympics and first medals, swept the 1000m and 1500m at the world championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue last February, plus added a mass start bronze.
Bowe, a former Florida Atlantic point guard, missed almost all of last season with a concussion and was slowed this fall by illness. She swept the 1000m and 1500m at the 2015 World Championships and was the world’s best sprinter in 2015 and 2016.
Davis is trying to make one more Olympic team at age 35. All of his Olympic medals came in the 1000m and 1500m in 2006 and 2010. His best World Cup finish in the fall was 11th.
The top three men in the 1000m and 1500m at trials are in line to make the Olympic team. Davis ranks third among Americans in those events this season.
Joey Mantia is the reigning world champion in the mass start, a race making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.
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U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials
|Tuesday, Jan. 2||4:15 p.m.||Women’s 3000m||LIVE STREAM|
|5:30-7 p.m.||Women’s 3000m||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, Jan. 3||6-7:30 p.m.||1000m||NBCSN
|Thursday, Jan. 4||6:30-8:30 p.m.||Women’s 5000m||NBCSN|
|Friday, Jan. 5||4:20 p.m.||500m #1||LIVE STREAM|
|6:30-8 p.m.||500m #2||NBCSN|
|Saturday, Jan. 6||6-8 p.m.||1500m||NBCSN|
|Sunday, Jan. 7||6-6:45 p.m.||Mass start||NBCSN|