Jilleanne Rookard

Jilleanne Rookard, Jonathan Kuck win at U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials

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Jilleanne Rookard and Jonathan Kuck are going back to the Olympics.

The 2010 Olympians won the opening races at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials in Kearns, Utah, on Friday night, clinching spots on the 2014 Olympic Team that will officially be named next week.

Rookard, 30, claimed the 3000m in 4 minutes, 9.66 seconds. She beat second-place Anna Ringsred by more than four seconds. Ringsred is also likely going to Sochi.

The U.S. qualified two entries in the Olympic 3000m, an event it hasn’t won an Olympic medal in since Beth Heiden‘s bronze in 1980.

Kuck, 23, won the men’s 5000m in 6:19.76, as expected. Emery Lehman and Patrick Meek, who were second and third, are also likely going to Sochi as the U.S. has three entries into the Olympic 5000m.

The U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials continue with the men’s and women’s 500m from the 2002 Olympic oval Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET. NBC will broadcast the competition at 3 p.m.

U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials Preview, Schedule

Rookard finished 12th in the 2010 Olympic 3000m and is a contender to make the U.S. Olympic Team in the 1500m and the 5000m again, too. The former inline skater and weightlifter competed in Vancouver two months after her mother died of cancer.

“I’m going to pop champagne and celebrate with my teammate,” Rookard said, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee. “I’m really excited.”

Ringsred, 29, will join Rookard on the Olympic team as long as no more than 10 different women’s skaters qualify over the total of five distances at trials. It will help if stars Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson qualify in multiple distances to keep the overall team size down.

Ringsred would be a first-time Olympian. The University of Calgary chemical engineering graduate briefly retired after failing to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

“Last Olympic Trials, I really did have too many nerves, and it really ruined my race; I didn’t perform well at all,” Ringsred said on NBCSN. “I went into this realizing that speed skating, for the first time in my life, amidst all the turmoil and the pressure, it makes me really feel alive.”

Among the women who missed out on the top two were 2010 Olympians Maria Lamb (fifth) and Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. (ninth) and three-time Olympic short track speed skater Allison Baver (14th). They’ll try to qualify in other distances.

Kuck won an Olympic silver medal in the team pursuit in Vancouver and placed eighth in the 10,000m, his lone individual event in 2010. One month later, Kuck took silver in the World Allround Championships behind Dutch superstar Sven Kramer.

Kuck also won bronze in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2012 World Single Distance Championships, though it will be hard for him to get past the Netherlands’ powerful trio in Sochi. Kuck is expected to win the 10,000m at the Olympic Trials on the final day of skating Wednesday.

“It’s nice to have it out of the way,” Kuck said on NBCSN. “A couple more races coming up [at trials], but there isn’t any question mark [about making the U.S. Olympic Team].”

Lehman and Meek are going to Sochi so long as 10 or fewer male skaters qualify over the five Olympic distances.

Lehman, an Oak Park (Ill.)-River Forest High School student, is likely to be the youngest male athlete among the entire U.S. Olympic delegation in Sochi. He’s 17 and the reigning world junior champion in the 5000m.

Meek, like Lehman, would be a first-time Olympian.

Comeback story at U.S. Olympic Trials

Team USA keeper Rooney had ‘ice in her veins’ for shootout

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Maddie Rooney couldn’t stop smiling. She was on top of her game, and it didn’t seem to matter that it was a shootout against the powerhouse Canadians.

The first shootout in an Olympic women’s final.

With a gold medal on the line.

Her coach, Robb Stauber, made sure not to say a word to the 20-year-old goaltender.

“I know she has ice in her veins,” Stauber said.

It sure looked like it. Rooney made 29 saves through overtime, then turned away shots from four Canadians in the six-round shootout, smiling along the way at her jubilant teammates on the bench. The last save came against four-time Olympian Meghan Agosta to clinch a 3-2 victory that ended the Americans’ 20-year gold medal drought .

The goalie who took the year off from college at Minnesota-Duluth had outdueled three-time Olympian Shannon Szabados, who was among those who prefer overtime over a shootout to settle such an important game.

“It’s more individual and less of a team thing,” Szabados said. “It’s a little harder to swallow, but that’s the way it goes.”

The United States had to replace not one, two but all three of their goalies after losing gold in 2014 at Sochi. Rooney, who played her senior year of high school in Andover, Minnesota, on the boys’ varsity team, was the goalie in net for each of the three U.S. victories over Canada in pre-Olympic play. She bounced back from a 2-1 loss last week to Canada and then some on Thursday.

Rooney said she’s been told it’s important to stay calm under pressure. She is sure she’s been nervous at times.

“But pressure is power,” said the goalie whose job title on Wikipedia entry was briefly changed to U.S. “Secretary of Defense.”

Her teammates said they had complete confidence in Rooney, who has only been with the national team since the 2017 world championships. Gigi Marvin, the oldest on the roster at 30, has been rooming with Rooney. She called Rooney unbelievable in net, so strong that they had complete trust in her.

“She’s a gem, talk about poise,” Marvin said. “We all knew she had it. She has been around all year and she just owns it.”

Stauber, a former goalie, knows exactly what a goaltender that never gets rattled means for a team. He didn’t worry about Rooney even after Haley Irwin and captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in the second period to give Canada a 2-1 lead.

“Then she bounces back tall, after a goal or two,” Stauber said. “It sends a lot of confidence. It really is a classic example of a great goaltender.”

Monique Lamoureux-Morando scored on a breakaway late in the third period to force overtime. Rooney stopped all seven shots in the 20-minute overtime, which ended with a Canadian power play. In the shootout, Agosta beat her stick-side and Melodie Daoust scored, too.

That was it. Rooney stopped Natalie Spooner, Poulin and lastly Brianne Jenner and Agosta taking a second turn as Canada’s final shooters.

“Then it all came down to Maddie Rooney, and she had a gold medal-winning performance,” U.S. forward Hilary Knight said.

Amanda Kessel gets gold-medal encouragement from brother Phil

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) _ The night before she played for the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal, Amanda Kessel looked at her phone and saw text messages from her brother, Phil, offering encouragement.

“Just, ‘Proud of you no, matter what,’ and he believes in me,” Kessel said.

NBCOlympics.com: Gold at last: U.S. women beat rival Canada in epic shootout

Kessel hadn’t yet checked her phone in the minutes after she and the United States beat Canada 3-2 in a shootout for the gold medal in an instant classic between the sport’s two powerhouses.

Phil tweeted he was proud of his sister and all of Team USA.

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