SOCHI, Russia -- The U.S. speedskating team has dealt with a skin-suit controversy, a string of disappointing performances and one distraction after another at the Sochi Games.
They are rolling in medals.
The Netherlands swept the podium again in the women's 1,500 meters at the Adler Arena on Sunday, the third time in eight races that Dutch skaters have gone 1-2-3. The tiny country, with a population of 16.8 million, has won 16 medals in long-track speedskating at these Olympics, a record by any nation in any sport in one Games.
Austria won 14 medals in Alpine skiing at the 2006 Turin Games.
Jorien ter Mors won the gold medal with a time of 1 minute 53.51 seconds, breaking the previous Olympic record of 1:54.02 set by Anni Friesinger of Germany in 2002.
Ter Mors skated in the ninth pair and had to wait through an ice resurface and nine more pairs before she knew she'd won.
"It was very nerve-racking," she said. "I never expected to win gold here, but I had a very good race. Technically, it was good. I kept pace, I skated in a compact position. It was just about keeping skating. At the finish line I looked up and I was first."
That's where she stayed.
Ireen Wust won silver in 1:54.09 and Lotte van Beek took the bronze in 1:54.54. For good measure, countrywoman Marrit Leenstra finished fourth in 1:56.40.
The Netherlands has won 17 medals overall in Sochi, the same amount it won in 2006 and 2010 combined. The one medal that did not come from long-track speedskaters went to Sjinkie Knegt in short track.
"They're on fire right now," said U.S. sprint coach Ryan Shimabukuro. "They've got all the momentum going in their direction and they've had it for several days now. That's the big thing about the Olympic Games -- when you get on a roll it's just infectious. My hat's off to them."
Heather Richardson of High Point, N.C., led a trio of Americans by finishing seventh in 1:57.60. She also finished seventh in the 1,000.
"I think it's one of my best sea-level 1,500s, so I can't really complain," she said. "I was more relaxed going into this race because I had no pressure. I just wanted to have fun and I think that showed."
Brittany Bowe of Ocala, Fla., finished 14th in 1:58.31, and Jilleanne Rookard of Woodhaven, Mich., was 18th in 1:59.15.
"Everybody knew it was going to be a tough race going out there and that it was," Bowe said. "I didn't really hit the lap times I wanted to. I didn't get up to speed as fast as I think I should have. But it was a tough race and I gave it my all."
Through eight races, the Americans still have not won a medal and have just eight top 10 finishes: Richardson in the 1,000, 1,500 and 500 (eighth); Brian Hansen in the 1,500 (seventh) and 1,000 (ninth); Bowe in the 1,000 (eighth); Shani Davis in the 1,000 (eighth); and Rookard in the 3,000 (10th).
There has been plenty of speculation about the reasons -- the suits; a pre-Olympics camp outdoors in Collalbo, Italy; not enough low-land training leading up to Sochi; and a poorly timed taper. Did the skaters peak in the fall, when they won 28 World Cup medals?
Shimabukuro wasn't ready to speculate about why the Americans have flamed out.
"We still have a few more events to focus on," he said. "Our guys are very strong in the team pursuit. Our girls have an outside chance at a medal as they've been on the podium already this year.
"Right now we're not going to do a full analysis. It's too emotional. It's too in the moment. To do a specific analysis you've got to do it with a clear head and an open heart and now is not the time to do that."
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