KEARNS — Heather Richardson has already proved that she's one of the fastest skaters on the U.S. Speekstaking Team.
This weekend she hopes to prove she's also one of the fastest in the world.
"I feel great," said Richardson, who has set national records in six races this season, one of those coming when she broke her own record a day after setting it. "I'm excited for the weekend, especially since I skated so good last week."
The North Carolina native has clearly enjoyed a successful season, but lately she's been performing at a level that's surprised even her. She set a national record in every race of the U.S. Long Track Championships in late December. And then she broke those national records in the 500- and 1,000-meter races on Jan. 19 in Calgary.
She won a silver and gold in those races, and hopes her hot streak continues in this weekend's World Sprints at the Utah Olympic Oval. The races will attract the fastest skaters from around the world to compete in 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter distances. The races begin at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $5 at the door.
Richardson feels blessed to be skating in such a high-profile event on her home ice.
"It's a little step above (a World Cup)," she said. "I'm trying to pretend it's just another World Cup sprint and not put too much pressure on myself."
Her success, she said, comes from calming down and focusing on technique.
"I think I'm best when I'm relaxed," she said. "And that's all I've been focusing on. So this weekend, I'm just going out relaxed and try to do my best."
Richardson said she listens to music and tries to clear her mind before each race.
"I usually try to pick one technique to work on during the race," she said.
The 23-year-old would like to make a little more history for herself this weekend, as she's never earned a podium at the World Sprints.
"It would mean a lot," she said of earning a medal this weekend. "I've been working so hard for all of this to happen. I have great teammates, and we've put in a lot of work. It would mean a lot."
Richardson said she and her teammates were also thrilled to learn that the qualifying events for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games will be in Kearns on their home ice.
"We have a comfort level here," she said. "We train here. The other skaters have to travel here, be here for weeks trying to acclimate to the altitude, and it's a bit of a hassle. I get to stay in my house and relax like it's any other weekend. It will be nice."