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Speed skating World Cups canceled; ‘hub’ concept explored

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This season’s first four World Cup speed skating stops in November and December and the first two short track events have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Skating Union is evaluating a proposed “hub concept” for alternative speed skating competitions to be held in the Netherlands, the world’s dominant skating nation.

The following speed skating World Cups were canceled:

Tomaszow-Mazowiecki, Poland, Nov. 13-15
Stavanger, Norway, Nov. 20-22
Salt Lake City, Dec. 4-6
Calgary, Dec. 11-13

The following short track World Cups were canceled:

Montreal, Nov. 6-8
Laval, Quebec, Nov. 13-15

A decision is pending on the third and fourth short track World Cups in Seoul and Beijing in December. After those, the next scheduled World Cups for short track and long-track speed skating are in February.

Last season’s world championships for short track, originally scheduled for last March, were previously canceled.

MORE: China adds best Olympic short track skater as coach

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Most decorated active Winter Olympian eyes career end in 2022

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Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst, the most decorated active Winter Olympian with 11 medals, said she plans to finish her career with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic season, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Wüst, 34, ranks fourth on the career Winter Olympic medals list behind three retired Norwegians — cross-country skiers Marit Bjørgen (15 medals) and Bjørn Dæhlie (12) and biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen (13).

Wüst’s resume is arguably more impressive, given she is the lone Winter Olympian to earn individual gold medals at four different Games. The list of Summer Olympians to do so: sailors Paul Elvstrøm and Ben Ainslie, discus thrower Al Oerter, long jumper Carl Lewis, swimmer Michael Phelps and wrestler Kaori Icho.

Nobody has earned individual gold at five Olympics. Wüst can try to become the first, barring a Phelps unretirement or Icho being put on the Japanese team after at first failing to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Wüst said her focus in Beijing will be the 1500m, defending her most recent individual Olympic title. Wüst said leading into 2018 that PyeongChang would be her last Olympics, but she kept going, earning world titles at the distance in 2019 and 2020.

If Wüst also tacks on 2022 medals in the team pursuit and the 1000m, she would move one shy of Bjørgen’s Winter Olympic medals record, set in 2018 in her final Olympic-level competition.

Come Beijing 2022, Wüst will be older than any previous Olympic speed skating champion, according to Olympedia.org. She earned her first gold at the 2006 Torino Games at age 19.

Wüst could make the Olympics her last competition or bow out at the March 2022 World Cup Final in the Netherlands.

MORE: World champion speed skater from U.S. retires

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Heather Bergsma, world champion speed skater, retires

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Heather Bergsma, a world champion and Olympic medalist speed skater, decided to retire during what has been a two-year break from the sport, according to U.S. Speedskating.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Bergsma said, according to TeamUSA.org. “I’m completely satisfied with how everything went.”

Bergsma, 30, now lives in the Netherlands with her husband, Jorrit, a Dutch Olympic champion speed skater, and son, Brent, who was born in October 2018.

Bergsma converted from inline skating to make the last three Olympic teams. She was the U.S.’ best skater in the 2014 and 2018 Olympic cycles and finished her career with a team pursuit bronze medal in PyeongChang, the first podium finish for U.S. women’s speed skating since the 2002 Olympics.

When Bergsma announced a two-year break from the sport in April 2018, she said she would “see if I have that drive again.”

Bergsma retires as the only U.S. speed skater to earn world titles in three different individual events — the 500m, 1000m and 1500m, between 2015 and 2017 — since the world single distance championships debuted in 1996.

Her best individual Olympic finish was sixth in her first Olympic race — the 500m at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

She also broke the 1000m and 1500m world records on consecutive Saturdays in November 2015. Other skaters since lowered those records.

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