Richardson wins 1,500 meters at US championships

Dec 29, 2009 - 10:48 PM By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

KEARNS, Utah(AP) -- Heather Richardson had hoped to qualify for the 2010 Olympics in just one event.

Barely two years since switching over from inline speedskating to ice, Richardson is Vancouver-bound in three distances instead of just the one.

Richardson locked up her third Olympic spot by topping her personal best and the rest of the competition in the 1,500 meters Tuesday at the U.S. Speedskating Championships. Her time of 1:56.22 was more than two seconds ahead of her personal best and 2.51 seconds faster than any other woman Tuesday.

"It was definitely a surprise," said Richardson, who wasn't racing on ice yet during the 2006 Olympics.

The 20-year-old from High Point, N.C., had already locked up spots on the U.S. team for the 500 meters and 1,000, so she could just relax and go for it in the 1,500. And go she did.

Richardson's time for the first lap was 25.21 seconds, 0.44 ahead of Elli Ochowicz in the other lane.

"I've never skated that fast in the first lap of a 1,500," she said. "I was like. 'Oh! I'm on a good one. Try to keep it up!"'

Richardson beat second-place Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. by 2.51 seconds.The U.S. roster for the 1,500 will be Richardson, Jilleanne Rookard and Jennifer Rodriguez, who is headed to her third Olympics.

It will be the first Olympics for Richardson and 19-year-old Brian Hansen, who clinched a spot by taking third in the men's 1,500 meters later Tuesday.

The American men were already stocked in the distance with world record holder Shani Davis, three-time Olympic medalist Chad Hedrick and Trevor Marsicano. The fourth spot was open Tuesday and Hansen took the lead late in the men's round with a time of 1:44.83.

Paul Dyrud and Jonathan Kuck couldn't top that in the next pairing and the only skaters left were Hedrick and Marsicano. Hansen knew he could do no worse than third, which was good enough for the No. 4 spot the Americans have in Vancouver.

"All I had to do was be in first before their pair and then I'd be in," said Hansen, a 19-year-old from suburban Chicago.

Hansen injured a disk in his back in late July and had to limit his training through the fall.

"I thought I was lucky just to make it past the fall trials. Now I'm here," he said.

Hedrick has been fighting a stomach bug this week but still managed to skate a time of 1:44.00, beating Marsicano by 0.33 seconds. Davis, who won Olympic silver in the 1,500 in 2006 and gold in the 1,000, didn't race Tuesday.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!