On a day when U.S. long track speedskaters earned five medals on home ice at the ISU World Cup in Salt Lake City, it wasn’t the heavy-hitting names of world champions Heather (Richardson) Bergsma and Brittany Bowe or Olympic champion Shani Davis that made headlines. Instead, it was Mitch Whitmore who stole the night for Team USA.
Whitmore earned his first individual world cup medal in his eighth season on the circuit – and set an American record in the process.
The two-time Olympian skated 34.19 seconds in the men’s 500-meter to earn the silver medal and break his own American record of 34.29, set two years earlier on the same track.
“To break any record, it feels really good,” Whitmore said. “It’s cool to know you have the fastest ever time for an American, and for it to be done at home makes it even better.”
Pavel Kulizhnikov of Russia and William Dutton of Canada earned gold and silver, with times of 33.98 and 34.35. Kulizhnikov broke his own world record of 34.00 seconds.
Whitmore’s only other international medals are 500-meter junior world championships gold in 2009 and world cup team sprint silver, earned last week in Calgary, Alberta, with Jonathan Garcia and Joey Mantia.
“Mitch’s 500-meter was truly amazing,” said U.S. sprint team head coach Matt Kooreman. “To start the way he did was incredible, but to have a 24.4 lap is phenomenal. It’s a great feeling to see him stand on that podium for the first time.”
Also on Friday, Bowe and Bergsma were paired up together in the women’s 500 and earned silver and bronze, skating 37.03 (a personal best for Bowe) and 37.13. China’s Hong Zhang won in a time of 36.56.
American Sugar Todd finished eighth, skating a personal best of 37.63 seconds.
Bowe and Bergsma were not the only U.S. athletes to finish two-three. In the men’s 1,500-meter, Mantia and Davis also took silver and bronze with times of 1:42.45 and 1:42.90. Dutch skater Kjeld Nuis won the race in 1:42.14.
Mantia has stood on the podium in both of this season’s 1,500-meter events, taking bronze in Calgary, while Davis’ medal was his first of the season.
The Salt Lake City world cup continues Saturday with the men’s 1,000-meter and 10,000-meter, women’s 1,500-meter and a second women’s 500-meter.