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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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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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