American speedskaters Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, seen as medal contenders in Tuesday's 500 meters, fell short of expectations, finishing well outside medal contention.

Richardson, seeking the first Olympic medal of her career, finished eighth and Bowe, making her Olympic debut at age 25, finished 13th.

The race was won by Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea, who put up Olympic-record times in both her second of two races (37.28 seconds) and her overall combined time (74.70) to defend the gold medal she won in Vancouver in 2010.

Lee has dominated the World Cup circuit during the current season, winning every event she has entered. She is also the two-time reigning world champion in the 500-meter distance and holds the world record for the event with the time of 36.36 seconds set in Salt Lake City in November 2013.

Olga Fatkulina of Russia came in second, earning the silver medal with a combined time of 75.06, while Margot Boer of the Netherlands won bronze with a time of 75.48.

Americans Lauren Cholewinski and Sugar Todd finished 15th and 29th overall, respectively.

The field of American speedskaters in Sochi, including Richardson and Bowe, are trying to become the first American woman to medal in long-track at the Olympics since Jennifer Rodriguez won two bronze medals and Christine Witty a gold in 2002.

Richardson, a 24-year-old North Carolina native, made her Olympic debut four years ago in Vancouver, where she finished sixth in the 500-meter race. She also finished ninth in the 1,000 meters and 16th in the 1,500 meters in 2010.

She also has claimed medals at the last two World Sprint Championships, winning gold in 2013 and finishing with bronze in her title defense last month. She currently ranks first overall in the World Cup standings and third in the 500 meters.

Bowe is a Florida native who spent the 2010 Winter Olympics playing basketball as a senior starting guard for Florida Atlantic University.

While the former inline speedskater only stepped on the ice in skate in July 2010, she has quickly found her place, earning 10 World Cup medals and setting the world record at 1,000 meters and the American record at 1,500 meters.

Bowe earned silver medals in the women's 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters in the national trials at the Utah Olympic Oval, earning her spot on the U.S. team by finishing each race just behind Richardson, her friend and roommate.