Gangneung, South Korea • The United States’ speedskaters arrived at these Games hoping to get back on track — and back on the podium — after a disastrous trip to Sochi four years ago.

In Russia, American long-track skaters were shut out — not a single medal in 36 events — for the first time in 30 years. There were gripes and excuses; they were frustrated by the race suits, which they never had worn in competition before arriving in Russia. There was an investigation that followed. Coaches were replaced, training programs were changed and the Olympic trials were moved to Milwaukee from Salt Lake City for the first time in two decades.

The early results in South Korea?

No better, at least when it comes to the medal count.

American Heather Bergsma was eyeing a medal in the 1,500 meters Monday night. Instead, the speedskater was red-eyed and short on words as she tried to explain her eighth-place finish.

“Yeah,” the American said, “it was kind of a blur.”

Bergsma started strong but faltered in her final lap. She finished 2.39 seconds behind gold medalist Ireen Wust of the Netherlands. American Carlijn Schoutens finished a disappointing 22nd in the women’s 3,000 meters, and Chicago’s Emery Lehman came in 21st in the men’s 5,000 earlier this week.

All along, though, Monday’s race at the Gangneung Oval looked to be Team USA’s best chance at its first long-track podium of these Games. Three-time Olympian Bergsma holds the world record in the event. Salt Lake’s Brittany Bowe had been skating better recently after working her way back to the Olympics following a serious head injury she suffered while training in July 2016.

Bowe actually skated a better race than Bergsma, finishing fifth overall with a time of 1:55.54. It was Bowe’s best Olympic finish. But the woman who has called Utah home since 2010 would have been happy just to be there after her long and arduous road back to health.

“I was just super happy to have the opportunity to skate my best in front of millions of people,” she said. “… It’s exciting being in the Olympic atmosphere, being able to come here and practice with the race lights on every day, seeing the Olympic banners every time you enter the oval. It’s just a great experience.”

Bowe believed her performance Monday would set her up for success in the 1,000 meters. She also seemed to believe Team USA had taken the proper steps to address the problems it had in Sochi.

“I think I can speak for the entire U.S. team, especially the entire U.S. sprint team, that we have done everything we can do to prepare ourselves,” Bowe said. “I know every single one of us is going to the start line knowing we’ve done everything in our power to skate the best race possible.”