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You Asked, Heather Answered

By Brandon Penny | Jan. 29, 2013, 1:51 p.m. (ET)

 Heather Richardson
Heather Richardson competes in the 1,000-meter distance during
the Essent ISU LT World Sprint Speed Skating Championships at
the Utah Olympic Oval on Jan. 27, 2013.

Heather Richardson has had a breakthrough season. In addition to sweeping all five races at the U.S. Single Distance Long Track Championships in November and setting three national records on her way to becoming sprint champion at the U.S. Long Track Championships in December, Richardson has earned 10 World Cup medals so far this season, including four golds in the 1,000-meter race.

The standout season continued this weekend in Salt Lake City when Richardson became the world sprint champion in record-setting fashion. After finishing on the podium in three of the four races at the World Sprint Championships, Richardson racked up 148.015 points to surpass the previous world record of 148.610. The 2010 Olympian and former inline speedskater is the first U.S. woman to earn the world sprint title since Jennifer Rodriguez did so in 2005.

Minutes after solidifying her place in history, Richardson took the time to answer questions submitted by fans on Facebook.

Chris A. asks: What is the hardest part of your training and why?

The hardest part for me is in the summer we have bike training and I am terrible going up the mountain. I never did bike training before I started speedskating so I was just thrown onto a bike and told, ‘Let’s go!’

Manta R. asks: Aside from Olympic competition, do you prefer speedskating or inline skating?

I think they’re both really awesome. They’re two totally different sports. In inline there’s a lot of racing action and on long track it’s against the clock, and that’s what I prefer.

Andy S. asks: How fast are you actually going in a full-on sprint?

Honestly I’m not sure. A couple of times I’ve heard 35 mph, but don’t hold me to that.

Jacob S. asks: What is it like to go to the Olympic Winter Games?

It is the best experience ever. Walking into Opening Ceremony with USA on your back and the crowd going crazy is an amazing moment.

Marlene R. asks: What made you decide to speedskate?

When I was growing up my parents used to speedskate and figure skate, so I’ve been on skates since I was young. Then at age 9 I was finally wondering, ‘What is this speedskating?’ So I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

Tara P. asks: As a speedskater, which part of the race is most important to you?

I think it depends on the race. In the 500-meter obviously the start is really important, and then once you get up to the 1,000 and 1,500 meters I think it depends mainly on the finish.

MC I. asks: How long do your intense workouts usually last?

We have been on the ice for about two hours at some points where we have all-out tempos, and then we have to do intervals in a group, so that’s probably our toughest.

Collin W. asks: What song best suits the emotion of speedskating?

That’s a tough one. We really try to get pumped up before our races, and I know a lot of us listen to dubstep in our weight room, so pump-up music.

Samantha J. asks: If you could choose to do something besides speedskating, what would it be?

 Heather Richardson on Podium
(L-R) China’s Jing Yu (silver), Heather Richardson (gold) and
Korea’s Sang-Hwa Lee (bronze) on the podium at the Essent ISU
Long Track World Sprint Speed Skating Championships at the Utah
Olympic Oval on Jan. 27, 2013.

I really love speedskating and it’s what I’m good at, but if I had to choose one, snowboarding looks awesome. I just got done watching the X Games. I’ve tried snowboarding once a couple of years ago and I was terrible. I barely got down the mountain but that’s ok.

Sarah T. asks: What do you eat before a big race?

If I’m at a hotel in Europe it’s usually whatever they give us. In the morning it’s usually a lot of eggs, then lunch is pasta and dinner is pasta also.

Ola S. asks: What goals have you set for yourself outside of speedskating?

I don’t have too many, but I do want to go to school eventually. I do work at GE Healthcare right now, so I want to stay in the healthcare world.

Ann M. asks: If inline was added to the Olympic program, would you switch back?

I wouldn’t. I think I’ve already switched over to ice now, but I really hope that inline does get in the Olympics.

Charlotte J. asks: What’s the one goal you want to achieve?

I definitely want to win a gold medal in the Olympics.

Andrew K. asks: Who is your role model and why?

Joey Cheek was a big role model of mine, just because he also did the inline to ice thing and was very successful with it.

Cami R. asks: Do you get cramps in your feet?

Yeah, whenever I put new laces in my skates actually, they’re so tight that I get cramps all the time until they’re broken in.

Amanda B. asks: What was your favorite summer Olympic sport to watch?

I’m definitely going to have to go with gymnastics. That was really exciting.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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