This year, speed skater Heather Richardson is headed back to the Olympics, determined to make her mark and bring home a medal for Team USA. Richardson's first breakthrough performance was at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, where she competed in three different events and took sixth place in the 500 meter race. The 24-year-old's success streak continued in 2011 when she won a bronze medal at the 2011 World Single Distance Championships in Germany.
Critics label Richardson as a promising candidate for the gold this year after she won first place at the 2013 World Sprint Championships at her home track in Utah. Skating is practically second nature to her; after all, it runs in the family. Both of her parents competed on "quad-style," or traditional, roller skates, prompting Richardson to take up inline skating when she was nine years old.
To fulfill her Olympic dream, she had to overcome a big challenge: making the switch from inline to ice skating. Four months after stepping on the ice she made her first U.S. Speedskating World Cup Team. At a World Cup event several years later, Richardson met Jorrit Bergsma, a 27-year-old long distance Dutch speed skater. He proposed after the 2013 season.
Aside from being a dedicated athlete, she's also a pretty awesome friend. At the 2014 Olympic Team Trials, Richardson beat roommate Brittany Bowe for a third race in a row. While on the victory podium, instead of treating her competitor as a rival, she handed Bowe the champagne bottle given only to winners so her friend could be the one to pop the cork in celebration.
"We always talk to each other after our races," Richardson said. "We congratulate each other, then we go home and hang out."
With both women headed to Sochi, the friendly competition is sure to serve as a motivator.