Heather Bergsma made long track speedskating history Sunday by taking 1,500-meter gold at the World Single Distances Championships in Gangneung, South Korea, at the Gangneung Oval’s Olympic test event.
Combined with the 1,000-meter gold she earned Saturday and her 500-meter gold from 2015, the two-time Olympian from High Point, North Carolina, becomes the first skater of either gender to earn world titles in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500.
She also is the first American woman to win multiple medals at three consecutive world championships. She claimed 1,000- and 1,500-meter silvers last year in Kolomna, Russia, after earning 500-meter gold and 1,000-meter silver the year before in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
This is her eighth world single distances medal, and the first time she won two golds at the event.
Skating in the final pair, Bergsma posted a 1:54.08, 0.11 faster than the 1:54.19 of silver medalist Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands. Japan’s Miho Takagi finished in 1:55.12, good for bronze.
Bergsma joins Brittany Bowe as the only two American women to achieve the 1,000/1,500 single distances gold sweep, which has been accomplished eight times since the competition began in 1996. Germany’s Anni Friesinger did it three times (2003, 2004, 2008), while Canada’s Christine Nesbitt scored the double in 2012. The other three sweeps belong to Dutch skaters: Annamarie Thomas (1996), Ireen Wüst (2009) and Jorien ter Mors (2016).
While the 1,000 has been Bergsma’s main event this season with six international wins in as many starts, she entered Sunday in possession of the 1,500-meter world record, a 1:50.85 she posted Nov. 22, 2015, in Salt Lake City. She also is third in the world cup standings at the distance behind Dutch teammates Marrit Leenstra and Wüst. Leenstra leads the pack with 370 points, 20 ahead of Wüst and 40 up on Bergsma.
Powered by her five-race world cup winning streak in the 1,000, Bergsma sits atop that table with a 94-point lead on Leenstra and also is No. 1 in the ISU Grand World Cup standings, where she is 205 points ahead of her Dutch rival.