Brittany Bowe

Brittany Bowe, Shani Davis win at Astana World Cup

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U.S. speed skaters were spectacular on fast North American ice to start the World Cup season, but how they fared on slower European ice, beginning this weekend, would offer a more accurate gauge of their Olympic prospects.

Brittany Bowe and Shani Davis continued to win in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Saturday.

The four-time Olympic medalist Davis took a 1000m in 1 minute, 8.66 seconds, beating surprise Italian Mirko Giacomo Nenzi by .24 of a second. Nenzi had never before finished in the top 10 of a World Cup 1000m. The race was missing Davis’ top competition so far this season, the Netherlands’ Kjeld Nuis and American Brian Hansen.

Davis won his third straight 1000m to start the season. He could become the first U.S. man to win a single Winter Olympic event three straight times if he captures the 1000m in Sochi.

Davis was fifth in the 1500m on Friday after taking second and first at the first two 1500m races of the season in Calgary, Alberta, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bowe won the 1500m in 1:57.28, nearly five seconds slower than her silver medal-winning time on fast Salt Lake City ice two weeks ago. The Floridian had finished 10th and 11th in earlier 500m races Friday and Saturday.

It must be noted that Bowe beat a field that did not include any woman who had made a World Cup or World Championships 1500m podium in the last two years.

South Korean world record holder Lee Sang-Hwa won her sixth straight 500m, in 37.32, to open the season, while world sprint champion Heather Richardson took fifth.

Russians Artyom Kuznetsov and Dmitry Lobkov went one-two in the men’s 500m, separated by .01 of a second. Two-time U.S. Olympian Tucker Fredricks was sixth.

The Astana World Cup concludes Sunday.

Astana Day 2

Women’s 500m — Race 2
1. Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR) — 37.32
2. Jenny Wolf (GER) — 37.66
3. Olga Fatkulina (RUS) — 37.81
5. Heather Richardson (USA) — 38.01
11. Brittany Bowe (USA) — 38.47
12. Lauren Cholewinski (USA) — 38.53
14. Elli Ochowicz (USA) — 38.60

Men’s 500m — Race 1
1. Artyom Kuznetsov (RUS) — 34.85
2. Dmitry Lobkov (RUS) — 34.86
3. Ronald Mulder (NED) — 34.87
6. Tucker Fredricks (USA) — 35.02
10. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) — 35.11

Women’s 1500m
1. Brittany Bowe (USA) — 1:57.28
2. Yuliya Skokova (RUS) — 1:57.70
3. Brittany Schussler (CAN) — 1:57.78
10. Jilleanne Rookard (USA) — 1:59.17

Men’s 1000m
1. Shani Davis (USA) — 1:08.66
2. Mirko Giacomo Nenzi (ITA) — 1:08.90
3. Michel Mulder (NED) — 1:09.02
13. Trevor Marsicano (USA) — 1:09.94
14. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) — 1:10.05

Speed skating season storylines

Christie Rampone not at fitness level to compete for Olympic spot

Christie Rampone
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Christie Rampone, the 40-year-old captain of the 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup team, has yet to return to full fitness after December knee surgery and pulled out of a U.S. camp ahead of two pre-Olympic friendlies in June.

Her bid for a fifth Olympics, and to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player of all time, is in danger.

The camp begins Friday. The friendlies against rival Japan (which failed to qualify for Rio) are June 2 and June 5.

“I don’t feel 100 percent healthy enough to train and compete at that level,” Rampone said in a press release Tuesday. “I’ve been able to manage myself and contribute to Sky Blue [her club team] this season, which I will continue to do, but I also have an understanding of the level of fitness and health needed to push for an Olympic roster spot, and I know I’m not there right now. It’s not the right choice for myself or the team to put myself in that environment.”

Rampone, a defender, hasn’t played for the U.S. since her December arthroscopic knee surgery. At the 2015 Women’s World Cup, she played a total of 14 minutes.

The U.S. national team is currently without nine players from the 23-player World Cup team, though some are expected back for the Olympics, but only one of the missing other than Rampone is a defender (the retired Lori Chalupny).

The U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team for London was named in May 2012, but the Rio roster of 18 players is expected to be announced by early July.

VIDEO: Hope Solo ‘begrudgingly’ going to Rio Olympics

Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Matt Grevers star in Fandango’s ‘I Love Movies: Rio Olympic Edition’

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NBC Olympics and Fandango partnered for Fandango’s “I Love Movies: Rio Olympic Edition,” featuring swimming gold medalists Ryan LochteMissy Franklin and Matt Grevers, among other Olympians and Paralympians.

Leading up to the Rio Games, NBC Olympics and Fandango plan to release episodes with dozens of athletes from gymnastics, track and field, diving, basketball rugby and Paralympic events.

Watch Lochte’s short film above and Franklin and Grevers reveal their favorite movies below.

Lochte, Franklin and Grevers will look to qualify for the Rio Olympics at the Olympic Trials in Omaha from June 26-July 3, with broadcast coverage on NBC Sports.

MORE: Full NBC Olympic trials broadcast schedule