There will be no U.S. women’s short track relay team at the Olympics for the first time come February.
The team was disqualified in the heats of a World Cup event in Kolomna, Russia, last week. The World Cup event was one of two Olympic qualifiers where the combined placements determined which seven nations (plus host Russia) would earn Olympic berths.
Given the U.S. finished seventh in the first of two qualifiers, the DQ was a knockout blow in the second one.
Now, the U.S. will send three women’s short track skaters to Sochi for individual events rather than the maximum five allowed for nations with relay teams, U.S. Short Track coach Stephen Gough told the Chicago Tribune.
There are three individual events (500m, 1000m, 1500m), but a skater can compete in all three if they qualify. The U.S. Olympic Trials are Jan. 2-5.
“Obviously it’s a massive disappointment as the coaching staff felt that the team was on the right track this season,” Gough told the newspaper. “We never doubted that they could skate at the level of the top four ranked teams and challenge them for a place in the Olympic final. Unfortunately, this won’t happen.”
The 3000m relay was considered the U.S. women’s best chance for a medal in Sochi. The U.S. won silver in 1992, bronze in 1994 and bronze in 2010.
It’s not totally clear what exactly happened to cause the disqualification in Kolomna. Gough said there was an incident followed by a lengthy review after which the U.S. was disqualified.
“It’s not official they won’t qualify, but it doesn’t put us in a very good position to earn those spots,” US Speedskating said in an email last week. “After this weekend is over, the ISU will determine how many spots each country has, and we will know for certain then.”
US Speedskating did not respond to follow-up emails last week asking for details on how/why the relay team was disqualified and, on Monday, if the ISU made the determination.
ISU said in an email early Tuesday morning the list of qualifiers would be published on its website shortly.