Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Sports

Winter Olympics: U.S. women end speed-skating medal drought

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Mia Manganello crossed the finish line, glanced at the video board and yelled. She then grabbed hands with American teammates Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe, and the trio thrust their arms in the air.

The Americans had reason to celebrate Wednesday. They finally won a long-track speed-skating medal at the Olympics, ending a U.S. drought for the women dating to the 2002 Games. "It was just an uproar of emotions of screaming and cheering," said Manganello, from Crestview.

She, Ocala native Bowe and Bergsma earned bronze in the women’s team pursuit, beating Canada by 0.45 seconds with a time of 2 minutes, 59.27 seconds. Japan won gold, the Netherlands silver.

"It’s kind of a perfect ending for the Olympics for myself personally, taking a team to get me to the podium," said Bowe, who a year ago was dealing with post-concussion syndrome and had top-five finishes in each of her three individual races.

Hope for U.S. women’s figure skating?

When national champion Bradie Tennell fell on her opening jump in the short program, it was a harbinger of another bad day for the U.S. figure skating team. Teammate Mirai Nagasu also fell on her opening jump. Karen Chen followed suit. Their performance was the worst for the U.S. women’s team in the Olympic short program, which started in 1976. Nagasu finished ninth, Chen 10th and Tennell 11th. Entering tonight’s long program, Nagasu is nearly 16 points — a canyon of a gap — behind the leader, Russian Alina Zagitova, whose 82.92 points in the program is a world record.

The last time an American woman won an Olympic medal was in 2006, when Sasha Cohen took silver. In the 10 Winter Games before that, the United States had at least one female medalist; five won gold. Samuel Auxier, president of U.S. Figure Skating, says one reason American skaters lately haven’t been as technically strong as skaters from other countries is because U.S. Figure Skating used to have a rule prohibiting young athletes from even trying triple jumps, partly because of the possibility of injury. So they haven’t had the time to fine-tune their triples.

That rule, Auxier says, was rescinded several years ago under his watch. "It’s possible that we’ll get back on the podium in the next couple of years, but sometimes life and puberty get in the way," he says.

Number of the day

3 Bobsled medals for Elana Meyers Taylor after her silver with brakeman Lauren Gibbs, tying her for most U.S. medals in the sport. She has a bronze and two silvers to join Pat Martin (gold and two silvers ,1948-52) and Steve Holcomb (gold and two silvers, 2010-14). Holcomb, who died unexpectedly in May at 37, was a mentor and unofficial coach to Meyers Taylor. "His legacy lives on," she said. "It’s the least I could do."

Quotable

"It was a team that was built to represent our country … Play hard, compete, leave it all on the ice. We did that. So we have a lot to be proud of."

U.S. men’s hockey coach Tony Granato, after losing in the quarterfinals to the Czech Republic 3-2 in a shootout

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