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Heather Richardson of the United States touches her coach after the women's 1,000-meter race of the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Nagano, central Japan,Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Utah speedskater places third in Japan races
First Published Jan 19 2014 10:04 am • Last Updated Jan 19 2014 11:23 pm

West Jordan’s Heather Richardson failed to defend her title at the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Japan on Sunday, finishing third in the last major event before the Sochi Olympics in Russia next month.

Two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis finished second in the men’s competition.

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Skaters contest two 500-meter races and two 1,000-meter races over two days at the sprint championships, which coach Ryan Shimabukuro said "isn’t the focal point of the season like it was last year."

Richardson finished behind China’s Yu Jing, whom she defeated last year for the title, and Zhang Hong, also of China. She was third in both 500s, and finished first and fourth in the two 1,000s. She’s a good bet to medal in all three of her individual races at the Olympics, the 500, the 1,000 and the 1,500.

"This is a good prep going into Sochi," Richardson said.

South Korea’s Lee Sang-hwa, the world-record holder in the 500 and overwhelming favorite to win the event in Sochi, skipped the championships after competing in her final Olympic tuneup in her home country earlier this month.

Davis, who trains frequently at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, came second overall to Michel Mulder of the Netherlands, who won his second straight title by winning both 500s and finishing third and fourth in the 1,000s.

Davis won one of the 1,000s — he’s the world-record holder and defending world champion in the event — but finished second in the other behind Kazakhstan’s Denis Kuzin, who hadn’t reached the podium in any of the four World Cup races this season.

Davis won three of those four races. He also finished 11th and 14th in the 500-meter races.

Fellow American Mitch Whitmore finished 14th overall in the men’s competition, same as Sugar Todd on the women’s side.

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