J.R. Celski

Key information as short track speedskating World Cup season starts

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The World Cup short track speedskating season kicks off in Shanghai on Thursday, beginning a stretch that will determine the makeup of Olympic short track teams.

A nation earns Olympic berths via results at the third and fourth World Cup stops (Nov. 7-10 in Turin, Italy, and Nov. 14-17 in Kolomna, Russia).

So, the first two World Cup stops — Thursday through Sunday in Shanghai and Oct. 3-6 in Seoul — will provide a good prediction of what to expect but have no impact on Olympic quotas.

The U.S. men and women should have no problem qualifying a full Olympic team of five men and five women. All the U.S. must do is have top-eight ranked relay teams (top seven if Russia is outside the top eight) from the November World Cup stops. The U.S. entered men’s and women’s relays into each of the last five Olympics, winning bronze medals in each in 2010.

The skaters who will comprise the U.S. Olympic Team will be determined at Jan. 2-5 trials in Kearns, Utah.

For Shanghai, the entire U.S. teams that qualified from the National Championships are on the entry list: J.R. CelskiChris CrevelingJordan MaloneJohn-Henry KruegerEddy Alvarez and Jeff Simon for the men; Jessica SmithAlyson DudekEmily ScottSarah ChenLana Gehring and You Young “Sally” Chea for the women.

The biggest U.S. stars from the 2010 Olympics, Apolo Ohno and Katherine Reutter, are retired. Celski, who broke the world record in the 500 meters last season, is considered the top U.S. medal threat for Sochi.

Canada, a traditional power in short track, already named its Olympic team. Every member of its expected men’s team for Sochi is on the entry list for Shanghai, including its star, Charles Hamelin. One member of its women’s Olympic team is not on the entry list, Marie-Eve Drolet, but its top medal threats are (Marianne St-Gelais, Valerie Maltais, Jessica Gregg).

South Korea and China remain the most dominant men’s and women’s nations.

South Korea is particularly stacked on the men’s side, but the 2012 overall world champion, Kwak Yoon-Gy, is not on the Shanghai entry list. (UPDATE: Kwak did not make the Olympic team for South Korea, which had its trials in April).

Russia’s best hope is Viktor Ahn, who won triple gold as Ahn Hyun-Soo for South Korea at the 2006 Olympics before switching countries. He is entered in Shanghai.

The most decorated women’s Olympic short track speedskater of all time, China’s Wang Meng, is on the Shanghai entry list as she bids for her third Games. Wang, who won the 500, 1,000 and 3,000 relay at the most recent Olympics and World Championships and was suspended after fighting a coach in between, can make history in Sochi.

With one gold, she will break the tie for most Olympic golds won by a short track speedskater. With two medals of any color, she will tie Ohno for most Olympic medals won by a short track speedskater.

The biggest threats to Wang, 28, are South Koreans Park Seung-Hi, 21, and Shim Suk-Hee, 16. They are both entered in Shanghai.

Report: Evan Lysacek in doubt for Skate America

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross win World Series of Beach Volleyball

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Rio bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross bounced back from an Olympic upset to win the biggest annual tournament in the U.S. on Sunday.

Walsh Jennings and Ross captured the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball title in Long Beach, Calif., for the second time in three years. They beat Spanish pair Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo 21-16, 21-16 in the final.

Absent from Long Beach were Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and silver medalists Ágatha and Bárbara of Brazil.

Walsh Jennings and Ross, who lost to Ágatha and Bárbara in the Olympic semifinals, dropped a total of two sets in seven undefeated matches this past week.

They earned their fifth international title of the year after winning none in 2015, last season shortened by Walsh Jennings’ fifth right shoulder surgery.

Later, the top U.S. men’s pair of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena were scheduled to play Brazilians Pedro and Evandro in the men’s final in Long Beach.

The beach volleyball season continues with the FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto in two weeks.

MORE: Tough for Misty May-Treanor to watch Kerri Walsh Jennings in Rio

Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

Monica Puig
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NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Puig gazed out at her fellow Puerto Ricans jamming the parade route, and in their eyes she saw hope.

They hailed her with “a sense of satisfaction,” she recalled Saturday, “and a sense of belief that things are going to get better.”

Throughout her stunning run to the Olympic tennis gold medal, Puig embraced the symbolism of each upset victory. An economic crisis is devastating the island of her birth, and she appreciated that if she could prove the impossible is possible, that message would reverberate far beyond sports.

“If Puerto Rico channels that same energy and belief that things will get better and working for the better of the island, the better of the community, things will improve,” Puig said four days after the U.S. territory honored its Olympic team and, above all, its first gold medalist.

“I really hope I gave them a lot of confidence moving forward,” she added, “that things will actually get better.”

The world’s 34th-ranked women’s tennis player met with a roomful of reporters Saturday, exactly two weeks after she beat Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final in Rio de Janeiro. Poised and philosophical in ways that bely her age, the 22-year-old realizes some people deem her gold medal “a fluke.”

After all, Puig has never made it past the round of 16 at a major. And at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, she’s never advanced beyond the second round. Puig is already bracing herself for the reality that her run at Flushing Meadows could fall well short of what took place in Rio.

“I’m 22 years old. There’s still a long way for me to go, a long stretch of career,” she said. “If anything happens, any kind of slip-up, it’s not really going to be a big deal, because I have a process and I have a long-term view of where I want to go.”

Which isn’t to say she expects a slip-up.

“I know that the Olympics wasn’t a fluke for me, because I have worked very hard to get to where I am,” Puig said. “I know the hours and the tears and the sweat and everything that’s been put into my practices. It’s been very difficult for me.

“But that moment, nobody will be able to take away.”

Even she considers that Olympic moment to be like something out of a movie script. When spectators chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes you can!” in Spanish) during the final against the second-ranked Kerber, Puig flashed back to a scene from the film “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

With fans roaring “U-S-A!” coach Herb Brooks tells his players: “Listen to them. That’s what you’ve done.” As Puig said Saturday, “I needed to listen to the crowd.”

Her gold might not have been quite as unlikely as the Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t too far off. The night after her victory, Puig slept with the medal on her nightstand, waking up every few hours to make sure it was real. She still feels the need to check up on it during the day.

“I see the videos and I’m like, ‘Did this really just happen?'” Puig said.

When they showed the clip of her medal ceremony when she was honored in Puerto Rico, she started crying again. Through it all, she insisted Saturday, she felt she kept her focus, knowing the U.S. Open was looming.

After Rio, Puig spent some time with her family in Miami, where she lives. Then it was on to the island “where the big party was waiting.” It’s been hard to squeeze in sleep and alone time and practice — all the things she needs to recover from one big event and prepare for another.

Puig faces 60th-ranked Zheng Saisai, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics, in the first round Monday. She originally wasn’t seeded at Flushing Meadows, which meant she could have faced a top player in her opening match, but she moved up to the final seed when Sloane Stephens withdrew because of an injury Friday.

It’s the first time Puig has been seeded at a major, and in what was a breakthrough season even before her golden moment, she’s starting to grow comfortable with those sorts of roles.

“I feel like I finally understand what I’m doing when it comes to tennis,” she said.

MORE: U.S. goes one-two in Olympic mixed doubles