- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Confidence has been an issue for Heather Bergsma in the past, which is a bit surprising for a two-time Olympian currently tearing through the long track speed-skating season.

Bergsma continued her stellar campaign at the U.S. Speed Skating Championships on Friday winning both of the women’s 500-meter races. She finished in 37.97 and 37.62 seconds, the second her best mark of the season.

“The training that I put in over the summer keeps me really strong,” Bergsma said. “I go confident into my races. I think that’s new for me.

“Before I would be questioning everything, but now I’m able to just stay relaxed and focus on what I want to do.”

Bergsma has won six medals, including five golds, during this ISU World Cup season and leads the Grand World Cup standings. She has her eyes on the medal stand for the 2018 Olympics after falling short in 2010 and 2014.

Bergsma married Jorrit Bergsma nearly two years ago and moved to his native Netherlands. Jorrit won gold and bronze at the Sochi Games and his presence has helped his wife.

“This year, having him with me all the time, he sees how I train,” Heather said. “He knows how strong I am. So, if I am kind of questioning, he’s like, ‘Heather, the other day you went a 26-second lap. You can do this.’

“That also helps my confidence and keeps me there.”

There was one record reached during the long track portion of the championships. Mia Manganello matched Catherine Raney Norman’s 2005 American record in the women’s 3,000 with a time of 4:01.98. The mark is the second-fastest in the world this season.

Mitchell Whitmore swept the two men’s 500 races with times of 34.63 and a season-best 34.51. Whitmore is a two-time Olympian going through a mindset adjustment during this season after dealing with injuries last year. He’s trying to stay “composed and focused” this season.

Whitmore received a one-year suspension from the International Skating Union last spring after a fight with a Netherlands coach, but had it reduced to six months, allowing him to skate this entire season.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to freak out and run instead of skate,” Whitmore said. “It’s hard when you’re trying to give your 100 percent, but then also keep something reserved. It’s really practicing staying relaxed in practice every day and through these races.

“I have different cues during the race on what I’m focusing on instead of just thinking of a time or an effort level. Relaxed intensity is my key word.”

Whitmore said he’s spoken quite a bit with 1994 Olympic gold medalist Dan Jansen about mental imagery. He’s also read multiple books about getting in an optimal mind frame.

“Growing up my initial reaction would just be give all your effort,” Whitmore said. “Just go and you’re not thinking about anything.

“It’s taken me a long time to come around and use my brain to actually skate faster.”

Four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis won the men’s 5,000 on Friday with a season-best 6:29.90.

Keith Carroll Jr. posted the best time in the men’s 1,500 quarterfinals in 2:12.979.

Katherine Reutter, the 2010 Olympian, was the top finisher in the women’s 500 short-track quarterfinal with a time of 44.885.

In the men’s 500 short track quarterfinal, Thomas Insuk Hong had the fastest time in 41.240. He also had the top men’s 1,000 quarterfinal with a time of 1:25.184.

Kristen Santo put together the best women’s 1,000 quarterfinal with a time of 1:33.126.

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