Maria Lamb

Maria Lamb goes from ER to third Olympic team

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Maria Lamb‘s road to Sochi went through an emergency room.

Lamb, 27, overcame a throat infection that put her in the ER for five hours Monday to make her third Olympic team in her last-chance race at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t breathe at all [Monday],” Lamb, who also had a severe migraine, said on NBCSN. “Two days ago, I was literally in the ER with an IV and oxygen. I’m like, oh my God, I have to try and make the Olympic team in two days. It’s not quite your normal or ideal setup.”

Only the winner of the 5000m would go to Sochi, and Lamb prevailed in 7 minutes, 13.31 seconds at the Utah Olympic Oval on Wednesday. She became the eighth and final member of the U.S. Olympic women’s speed skating team.

Emery Lehman, who already qualified in the 5000m, won the men’s 10,000m to wrap up competition. The U.S. had one Olympic spot in the 10,000m, too.

Lamb placed 15th in the 5000m at the 2010 Olympics and 24th in the 1500m and fifth in the team pursuit at the 2006 Olympics. She was fifth in the 3000m at trials Friday, where the top two made the Olympic team.

Lamb was in the emergency room three days later, knowing her only chance to get to Sochi would come in the longest, most exhausting event in the women’s program.

“The 5K is my best and my favorite race,” Lamb said. “People think I’m a little bit crazy.”

Lamb and Jilleanne Rookard were co-favorites in the 5000m, but Rookard scratched out of the 5000m. Rookard already made the team in the 1500m and 3000m.

That left Petra Acker as Lamb’s biggest competition. Acker, trying to make her first Olympic team, was seven seconds slower than Lamb on Wednesday.

Another contender, Theresa Cliff-Ryan, was not allowed to skate after not passing concussion tests Wednesday. She was injured Monday when she landed on her head after being struck on the sidelines by a crashing skater, according to The Associated Press.

In the men’s 10,000m, Lehman came from behind to shock pair counterpart Jonathan Kuck by .07 after 25 laps. Lehman, a Chicagoland high school student, won in 13:22.77, shaving nearly seven seconds off his personal best.

“I saw some of [Kuck’s] lap times were slowing down, and mine were staying pretty consistent,” Lehman, wearing a green Chicago Blackhawks cap, said on NBCSN. “I was kind of waiting for myself to die, but it never came.”

Here’s the slated U.S. Olympic Speed Skating roster, pending skaters confirming their spots:

Tucker Fredricks — 500m
Mitchell Whitmore — 500m
Shani Davis — 500m, 1000m, 1500m
Brian Hansen — 500m, 1000m, 1500m
Jonathan Garcia — 1000m
Joey Mantia — 1000m, 1500m
Jonathan Kuck — 1500m, 5000m
Emery Lehman — 5000m, 10,000m
Patrick Meek — 5000m

Sugar Todd — 500m, 1000m
Heather Richardson — 500m, 1000m, 1500m
Brittany Bowe — 500m, 1000m, 1500m
Lauren Cholewinski — 500m
Kelly Gunther — 1000m
Jilleanne Rookard — 1500m, 3000m
Anna Ringsred — 3000m
Maria Lamb — 5000m

Short track trials preview

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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