Richardsons Raised An Olympian In High Point

By Jeff Mills, News & Record | Feb. 11, 2018, 9:34 p.m. (ET)

HIGH POINT — She’s grown up before our eyes, living a life measured in milliseconds. And yet four-year cycles whistle by as if borne on a strong wind.

Heather Richardson Bergsma is in South Korea to compete in the Pyeongchang Games, the third Winter Olympics of her speedskating career.

Where did the time go?

A poster from 2002, when then-13-year-old Heather competed at inline skating’s U.S. Championships.

A curio cabinet stocked with mementos, including a trophy commemorating Heather’s world record on the ice in speedskating’s 1,500 meters right next to a brick salvaged from the rubble when High Point’s Rol-A-Rink was torn down in the spring of 2014.

The brick, from the roller-skating rink that once stood a short walk from the Richardson house, was a wedding gift when Heather married Dutch speedskater Jorrit Bergsma after the last Olympics.

Speedskating’s power couple lives in the Netherlands, near Jorrit’s childhood home in rural Aldeboarn. But the bond to her High Point home remains strong.

“We still talk every day,” Pat Richardson says, “most times twice a day.”

Mother and daughter are close. They have cell-phone numbers one digit apart.

“It’s hard. We miss her a lot,” Pat says. “But thank goodness for Skype and FaceTime and the Internet. When we miss her, we can call her and talk to her.”

Olympic Travels

They’ll see her in the flesh in the coming days.

Pat and Jeff will watch the opening ceremonies on TV in High Point. On Saturday morning, they and a few friends will fly from Greensboro to Dallas to South Korea.

It’s 13 hours in the air to see their daughter’s third Olympics. They made the trips to Canada in 2010 and Russia in 2014, too.

“It feels like the first Olympics all over again,” Jeff Richardson says. “It always feels like something new, every time. We’re super proud of her.”

Heather has qualified in five events, more than any other U.S. speedskater, but there’s less hype this time around after Team USA was shut out in Sochi.

She’s still chasing her first Olympic medal, but the High Point Central graduate has won a staggering 85 World Cup medals and three of the last four overall women’s titles.

“This time does feel different,” Pat Richardson says, “because it could be her last Olympics, because of her age and everything.”

Heather will turn 29 years old next month. During a springtime visit home, she said she would like to try for the 2022 Games before retiring.

“She may want to do one more Olympics,” Pat says, “but in between, I’m sure she wants to start a family as well. I don’t know how that will play into it. But over there in the Netherlands, there are women with children who still skate competitively for the pro teams. So it can be done.”

The toughest thing would be the travel. Since starting as an elite inline skater at age 9, international competitions have taken Heather to Europe, Asia, South America and all over North America.

Travel is expensive, and when both parents couldn’t afford to attend, Jeff and Pat took turns accompanying Heather.

This will be Jeff’s second trip to South Korea. The first was in 2006 for an international inline meet.

“It was in PyeongChang, but it was in the northern section (of the county),” Jeff says. “It was real nice. She was maybe 17 years old, and she won two or three medals while we were there.”

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