Shani Davis

U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials preview

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Up to 20 more athletes will qualify for Sochi at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials in Salt Lake City over the next week.

The U.S. has won more medals in speed skating than any other Winter Olympic sport, and it is projected to add to that total of 67 in Sochi.

Shani Davis is a four-time Olympic medalist and entered in both of his Olympic medal events this week — the 1000m (Sunday) and 1500m (Tuesday) — and the 500m (Saturday).

Davis, 31. is not entered in the 5000m, an event he competed in at the 2010 Olympics. This is not surprising as Davis has pared his schedule in recent seasons as he’s fought injury.

World sprint champion Heather Richardson and world record holder Brittany Bowe are expected to be the top U.S. women in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m. They are Sochi Olympic medal threats along with Davis.

Here’s the Olympic Trials schedule (all times Eastern):

Friday — Men’s 5000m/Women’s 3000m, 5:30 p.m. (NBCSN,  8 p.m.)
Saturday — Men’s/Women’s 500m, 11:30 a.m. (NBC, 3 p.m.)
Sunday — Men’s/Women’s 1000m, 1:30 p.m. (NBC, 3 p.m.)
Tuesday — Men’s/Women’s 1500m, 5 p.m. (NBCSN, 6 p.m.)
Wednesday — Men’s 10,000m/Women’s 5000m, 3:30 p.m. (NBCSN, 5 p.m.)

The U.S. cannot send more than 10 men and 10 women to the Sochi Olympics, even though it qualified more than 10 quota spots across all distances via World Cup results.

Therefore, it will help if Davis, Richardson, Bowe and others qualify for the team in multiple events.

The U.S. could have up to four Olympic entries each in the men’s and women’s 500m and 1000m and the men’s 1500m. It could have up to three in the women’s 1500m and men’s 5000m. It could have up to two in the women’s 3000m and one in the women’s 5000m and men’s 10,000m.

Here’s an event-by-event preview of the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials:

Men’s 500m
Maximum Olympic entries: Four
Contenders: Tucker Fredricks, Mitchell Whitmore, Joey Mantia, Jonathan Garcia, Shani Davis

Fredricks, 29, is a two-time Olympian, but his best results have not come at the Games (25th and 12th). At his best, he has threatened the best in the world.

In a surprise, Fredricks began the World Cup season as the fastest man in Calgary, Alberta, in early November. He hasn’t made the podium since but appears to still be the top American.

Whitmore, 24 and the American record holder, has finished no lower than 15th over eight World Cup races this season. He is a solid No. 2 behind Fredricks and should make his second Olympic team after finishing 37th in Vancouver.

Mantia and Garcia were third and fourth to Fredricks and Whitmore at time trials at the Salt Lake City oval last week.

source: Getty Images
Brittany Bowe could make the U.S. Olympic Team in three individual distances. (Getty Images)

Women’s 500m
Maximum Olympic entries: Four
Contenders: Heather Richardson, Brittany Bowe, Elli Ochowicz, Sugar Todd, Lauren Cholewinski

Richardson, the former inline skater from High Point, N.C., has been the fastest American woman each of the last five seasons. She was sixth at the 2010 Olympics, won the World Sprint Championship in January and made the podium in three of eight World Cup races this season.

Bowe, the former college basketball player, has gained on Richardson since taking up speed skating after watching Richardson on TV at the 2010 Olympics. She has yet to make a World Cup 500m podium but hasn’t finished lower than 11th in eight races this season.

Ochowicz, 30, is the daughter of three-time 1976 Olympic speed skating medalist Sheila Young and Jim Ochowicz, who manages the BMC Pro Cycling Racing Team. She is trying to make her fourth Olympic team. Her best Olympic finish is 17th.

Todd and Cholewinski were fourth and fifth behind Richardson, Bowe and Ochowicz at time trials in Salt Lake City last week.

Men’s 1000m
Maximum Olympic entries: Four
Contenders: Shani Davis, Brian Hansen, Joey Mantia, Trevor Marsicano, Jonathan Garcia, Mitchell Whitmore

Davis, 31, is the two-time reigning Olympic 1000m champion and the favorite to win Sunday.

Hansen, 23, is also a Sochi medal threat after winning bronze at the first two World Cups of the season. He skipped the last two World Cups overseas to focus on training in Wisconsin.

Mantia, 27, won a bevy of world inline titles in 2009 and 2010 and has been on a stellar rise since switching to ice, especially this season. In his first four World Cup 1000m races, he finished 11th, 11th and second in three B division races for lower-ranked skaters. He moved up to the A division for the last World Cup in Berlin and took sixth, the top American behind Davis.

Marsicano, 24, held the 1000m world record for about 20 minutes in March 2009 before Davis retook it at the same competition. He’s struggled with injuries since winning four medals at the 2009 World Championships and is in a fight to make his second Olympic team.

Garcia and Whitmore were the fastest men at time trials in Salt Lake City last week, but that event didn’t include Davis, Hansen or Marsicano and Mantia did not finish.

The comeback story of the U.S. Olympic Trials

Women’s 1000m
Maximum Olympic entries: Four
Contenders: Heather Richardson, Brittany Bowe, Sugar Todd, Elli Ochowicz, Lauren Cholewinski, Rebekah Bradford

Richardson and Bowe should go one-two in this event, in either order, after taking gold and silver together at three of four World Cups. Richardson won three of those races and took second in the other with the second fastest time ever.

Bowe broke Olympic champion Christine Nesbitt‘s world record in Salt Lake City on Nov. 17 to relegate Richardson to silver. She’s been second to Richardson in the 1000m World Cup standings each of the last two seasons.

The fight for third and fourth is among 500m hopefuls Todd, Ochowicz and Cholewinski as well as 2010 Olympian Bradford.

source: AP
Joey Mantia is looking to make his first Olympic team. (AP)

Men’s 1500m
Maximum Olympic entries: Four
Contenders: Shani Davis, Joey Mantia, Brian Hansen, Trevor Marsicano, Jonathan Kuck

Davis is the two-time reigning Olympic 1500m silver medalist. He could get competition from Mantia, who won the last World Cup event in the second A division start of his career on Dec. 6 (Davis was eighth).

Hansen has won World Cup 1500m medals each of the last two seasons. Marsicano and Kuck appear to be fighting for fourth, though Kuck is better in longer distances.

Women’s 1500m
Maximum Olympic entries: Three
Contenders: Brittany Bowe, Heather Richardson, Jilleanne Rookard

Bowe, faster than Richardson here, made two of four World Cup podiums this season. Richardson made her first career World Cup 1500m podium in Salt Lake City on Nov. 16, putting her in the Sochi medal mix.

Rookard, a 2010 Olympian, leads a group racing for third.

Women’s 3000m
Maximum Olympic entries: Two
Contenders: Jilleanne Rookard, Maria Lamb, Petra Acker, Anna Ringsred

As the distances get longer, the U.S. Olympic medal prospects get dimmer. No U.S. woman has finished in the top 10 of a World Cup 3000m the last three seasons.

Rookard, 12th at the 2010 Olympics, was the last to make a World Cup 3000m podium, winning an event in November 2010.

The 2010 Olympian Lamb is stronger in the 5000m. Acker and Ringsred are trying to make their first Olympic teams.

Men’s 5000m
Maximum Olympic entries: Three
Contenders: Jonathan Kuck, Brian Hansen, Emery Lehman, Patrick Meek

Kuck made the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team at 19 and went on to win silver one month later at the World Allround Championships, an event that measures skaters across all distances. Kuck is best at the 5000m and 10,000m and a clear favorite to win both events this week.

Hansen sparingly races the 5000m internationally. Lehman, 17, could become the youngest male member of the entire U.S. Olympic Team.

Women’s 5000m
Maximum Olympic entries: One
Contenders: Maria Lamb, Jilleanne Rookard

The single spot is likely to come down to the two women who competed in the 2010 Olympic 5000m. Rookard was eighth at the Olympics, seven spots ahead of Lamb, but the younger Lamb was three seconds faster than Rookard at the only World Cup 5000m this season.

Men’s 10,000m
Maximum Olympic entries: One
Contenders: Jonathan Kuck, Emery Lehman, Patrick Meek

No American has been within 10 seconds of Kuck in any of the last three seasons. The single spot should be his if he wants it.

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Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

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Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

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Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

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When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

“I left crying and never went back to that doctor,” she said.

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

The pain returned and, by 2015, became unbearable.

She underwent another hip surgery, this one much more complicated. The operation fixed cartilage damage, cleaned up bone spurs and put more anchors in her labrum because of a slight tear with doctors warning that her hip would probably be 90 percent of what it was, according to The Associated Press.

Mancuso spent six months on crutches. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said last month. “A lot of people ask me why I’m doing it [skiing], because I can’t even walk. Why would I ski? The truth is, skiing is way easier. Skiing is fun because it is easy, and my body loves it. My body loves to ski, and my body needs to ski. … It improves my quality of life.”

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

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