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Heather Bergsma takes break from speed skating

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Heather Bergsma, the top U.S. speed skater over the last two Olympic cycles, is taking at least a two-year break from the sport.

“I do hope to start a family here soon with my husband, so we’ll see what happens,” Bergsma said Tuesday in her native North Carolina on a CBS affiliate, adding later, “I’ll see if I have that drive again.”

Bergsma, 29, was part of the U.S. women’s team pursuit squad that took bronze in PyeongChang, the first medals in U.S. women’s speed skating since the 2002 Olympics.

This trio of Bergsma, Brittany Bowe and Mia Manganello reportedly practiced together for the first time just four or five days earlier. Bergsma had not raced a team pursuit in four years. The U.S. women didn’t outright qualify a team pursuit spot for the Games but got in when Russia was excluded as part of its doping punishments.

“When we crossed the finish line and saw that we got third, it was like a sigh of relief,” Bergsma said Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s a really good reminder that it takes a team to get where you’re going.”

It was a bit of redemption for Bergsma, a world champion and world-record holder who finished eighth, eighth and 11th in her first three individual events in PyeongChang.

Similarly, the converted inline skater went into Sochi projected to earn multiple medals by The Associated Press and Sports Illustrated and ended up with a best finish of sixth. The entire U.S. speed skating team underperformed, earning zero medals for the first time since 1984.

Bergsma’s main memory from Sochi came after a seventh-place finish in the 1000m, when she went through the media mixed zone in a daze and then broke down, alone, in an empty hallway at the Adler Arena.

Bergsma rebounded with world titles in 2015 and 2017. She broke the 1000m and 1500m world records on consecutive Saturdays in November 2015 (still holds the 1500m record).

She also married the Sochi Olympic 10,000m champion, Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands, in May 2015 and moved overseas.

“I definitely want to learn fluent Dutch,” Bergsma said Tuesday, according to the High Point Enterprise. “That’ll be the first thing when I get back. Then, I want to see career opportunities. Maybe I want to go into coaching – but definitely just younger kids. Nothing too serious. And then we’ll see where it goes.”

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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