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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2018
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Winter Olympics: Another bad start for U.S. speed skaters

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Three events into the Olympic speed skating competition, the Americans remained off the podium.

The latest setback came Monday when world champion Heather Bergsma finished eighth in the 1,500 meters. Ocala’s Brittany Bowe had the highest U.S. finish, fifth, and Crestview’s Mia Manganello was 22nd out of 26 skaters.

Their results through Monday recalled four years ago in Sochi when the U.S. team was blanked, a stunning result for a sport that has earned the country its most Winter Olympic medals.

Bergsma faded badly on her last lap, with her time going up 3 seconds from her previous lap. "It was just a hard last lap," she said in a flat voice. "It wasn’t my best race, so I can’t be super happy about it."

Bergsma’s time of 1 minute, 56.74 seconds was well off her personal best, 1:50.85, the world mark she set two years ago. She finished 2.39 seconds behind gold medalist Ireen Wust of the Netherlands.

If there was a bright spot, it was Bowe. She had the best U.S. result since Sochi, where no one finished higher than seventh individually.

Bowe has lost valuable training time since suffering a concussion in July 2016 after colliding with a teammate during practice. The recovery limited her to one World Cup event before the Olympics.

"Felt great," she said. "Best 1,500 I’ve had in a couple of years. It gives me great momentum going into my favorite race, which is the 1,000 (today), so super happy about it."

Manganello, an Olympic rookie, had a cold in recent days, which kept her off the ice until Monday. She was confined to her room at the athletes village, and her roommates moved elsewhere.

"Leading into this weekend I felt awesome, been skating really well technically," she said. "Obviously (Monday) didn’t go as planned. I know I can do a lot better."

Manganello is in today’s 1,000 with Bowe, who won the event at the 2015 world championships.

Also with a chance to change the U.S. fortunes today are Shani Davis and Ocala native Joey Mantia in the men’s 1,500. Davis took silver in the event in 2006 and ’10.

‘Herstory’ made

When she was passed over for an Olympic spot in 2014, Mirai Nagasu considered giving up figure skating. Instead, she used the snub as motivation.

One result is that Nagasu, 24, became the first American woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics, helping lift the U.S. team to a bronze medal in team competition.

"This is definitely history, or herstory, whatever way you want to put it," she said.

The triple axel — a jump with 31/2 rotations, and the only one with a forward-facing takeoff — is the rarest of feats in women’s figure skating. Just seven women have successfully landed one in competition, including American Tonya Harding in 1991. Nagasu became the third woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics, after Japan’s Midori Ito, in 1992 and Mao Asada in 2010 and e_SSRq14.

Olympicstats.com contributed to this report.

No, Mirai Nagasu doesn’t have USA tattoo

Besides having people wowing at her triple axel in the team figure skating competition, Mirai Nagasu also had them wondering, "Wait, is that a giant ‘USA’ tattoo on her inner right thigh?"

As fascinating as that might have been, she doesn’t. Nagasu was using Team USA-branded kinesiology tape under her tights. The tape, made by Utah-based KT Tape, and products like it are used by athletes across a variety of sports, including beach volleyball competitors, if only to gain a psychological edge.

Some Winter Olympians are spreading the tape across their faces to try to shield themselves from the frigid temperatures in the Pyeongchang area. "The issue is serious in the Alpine skiing," said Lubomir Soucek, who works with Slovakia’s team. "You have to protect your face not to have frozen skin."

Number of the day

10 Olympic speed skating medals for the Netherlands’ Ireen Wust after her gold in the 1,500 meters, giving her the most career medals in the sport

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