Eddy Alvarez

Eddy Alvarez, Emily Scott make U.S. Olympic Short Track Team

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J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith dominated again, and two more skaters qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team at the short track trials Saturday.

Celski and Smith, who won the 1500m on Friday, swept 500m races Saturday to earn Olympic berths in a second distance. Eddy Alvarez
and Emily Scott finished second, again, on Saturday to clinch their first Olympic berths.

The U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Trials conclude with 1000m races at the Utah Olympic Oval on Sunday. Four more skaters will earn Olympic spots.

Alvarez is in line to join Celski in both the 500m and 1500m in Sochi given they both went one-two in the events the last two days. The U.S. has one other Olympic spot in those events. Who will fill it is yet to be determined.

Alvarez, 23, is one of three U.S. men’s skaters to win individual World Cup medals this season. “Eddy the Jet” is from Miami, the son of Cuban immigrants, and a former inline skater and all-conference shortstop at Salt Lake Community College.

He’s been skating with Celski since they were 6, dating to their inline days. Celski already has one Olympics under his belt. Now, Alvarez gets to join him in Sochi.

“It sounds pretty awesome, don’t you think?” Alvarez said on NBCSN before performing a special handshake with Celski.

Earlier Saturday, John-Henry Krueger scratched out the 1500m with the swine flu, which has had a recent outbreak in Salt Lake City. Krueger, a World Cup medalist this season, was a favorite to make the Olympic Team before the trials.

He was fourth in four- and nine-lap time trials Thursday but did not qualify for either A final in the 1500m on Friday. He could still earn a spot on the Olympic Team on Sunday, if he competes and fares well.

Whoever finishes first or second in the 1000m Sunday will make the Olympic Team. Whatever spots still available will then go to the next highest skaters in the overall standings.

That makes the next three highest men in the overall standings — 2010 Olympian Jordan MaloneKyle Carr and Chris Creveling — the favorites to secure the final three men’s Olympic berths Sunday.

One Olympic spot is left to be determined on the women’s team. Scott, 24, was unaware that all she had to do was finish second behind Smith in the final 500m race Saturday to clinch an Olympic berth.

“I’m speechless,” Scott said on NBCSN after learning she made her first Olympic Team. “I didn’t even know until my coach brought me over and congratulated me. It’s been a long time coming.”

The winner of the women’s 1000m standings Sunday will make the Olympic Team. If that winner is Smith or Scott, the second-place skater will make the Olympic Team. If Smith and Scott go one-two, in either order, the top skater in the overall distance standings will make the Olympic Team.

Here are the individual distance standings:

Men’s 500m — FINAL
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,920 (clinched Olympic berth)

Men’s 1000m
1. J.R. Celski — 500
2. Chris Creveling — 400
3. Eddy Alvarez — 320
4. John-Henry Krueger — 256
5. Jordan Malone — 205

Men’s 1500m — FINAL
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,632 (clinched Olympic berth)

Women’s 500m — FINAL
1. Jessica Smith — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 1,840 (clinched Olympic berth)

Women’s 1000m
1. Jessica Smith — 500
2. Emily Scott — 400
3. Alyson Dudek — 320
4. Kimberly Goetz — 256
5. Sarah Chen — 205

Women’s 1500m — FINAL
1. Jessica Smith — 2,300 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 2,200 (clinched Olympic berth)

Here are the overall distance standings:

1. J.R. Celski — 5,000 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 3,552 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Jordan Malone — 2,714
4. Kyle Carr — 2,389
5. Chris Creveling — 2,264

1. Jessica Smith — 4,800 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 4,040 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Alyson Dudek — 3,360
4. Sarah Chen — 2,509
5. Kimberly Goetz — 1,559

Apolo Ohno makes TV analyst debut

Bobsled Olympic medalist Steve Langton retires

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03:  (BROADCAST-OUT)  Steve Langton of the United States Bobsled team poses for a portrait ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Steve Langton, who was described by driver Steven Holcomb as the “best push athlete in the world,” announced his retirement today.

A collegiate sprinter and jumper at Northeastern University, Langton decided to try bobsledding after watching the 2006 Winter Olympics. He filled out an online athlete resume, and, by the 2010 Games, he was an Olympian.

At the Sochi 2014 Games, Langton teamed with Holcomb to win a bronze medal in the two-man race. It was the first Olympic medal in the event by American sled since 1952. He claimed another bronze medal as a member of Holcomb’s four-man “Night Train.”

“In Sochi I competed on the world’s biggest stage, I won two medals for my country and I did so along not only the best teammates but best friends anyone could ever ask for,” Langton told USA Bobsled.

Langton, who has a 62-inch standing box jump and can squat more than 500 pounds, was described by Men’s Health as “the most powerful winter Olympian” in the lead-up to 2014 Games.

“[Langton’s] work ethic and discipline rubbed off on the other athletes and made everyone better,” said USA Bobsled & Skeleton Chief Executive Officer Darrin Steele. “I have no doubt that he’ll find success in the next chapter of his life as well.”

Langton appeared on “The Amazing Race” in 2015 with his girlfriend, Aly Dudek, an Olympic short track speedskater.

None of the push athletes on the current U.S. roster have Olympic experience. Holcomb will compete in the World Cup opener this Saturday with Sam McGuffie, a former University of Michigan football player. The race will be McGuffie’s World Cup debut.


Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

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Dan Jansen has significant experience rewriting the speed skating world record book.

The 1994 Olympic 1000m champion broke the 500m world record in 1992, and then lowered his mark another four times. He also set world records in the 1000m and sprint combination.

Yet even Jansen is shocked by the number of edits to the record book over the last two weeks.

“I haven’t seen anything like it,” Jansen said. “Not this many.”

Four world records were broken this past weekend at the World Cup in Kearns, Utah. The weekend before, world records in three Olympic events fell at the season-opening World Cup in Calgary.

There is no surprise about the locations of the record-breaking performances.

The Utah Olympic Oval claims to have the “fastest ice on earth,” and for good reason. The venue is located 4,675 feet above sea level. At such a high altitude, the air is less dense, meaning speed skaters experience less air resistance and are therefore able to achieve faster speeds.

It is the same reason baseball players hit more home runs at the Colorado Rockies’ stadium, Coors Field, and football kickers are able to make longer field goals when they travel to play the Denver Broncos.

The Calgary Olympic Oval is also at a high altitude, although not as high as at the venue in Kearns. All of the current Olympic event world records have been set in either Utah or Calgary.

What is surprising, however, is the large number of world records broken during a two-week stretch.

Brittany Bowe started the revision of the record book by breaking her own women’s 1000m world record on Nov. 14 in Calgary. Just three minutes later, her U.S. Olympic teammate, Heather Richardson, claimed the world record for herself. Then, this past Sunday in Utah, Bowe broke the world record once again. NBCSN will televise the coverage from Utah this Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET, with Jansen providing the commentary.

Richardson also stole a world record from Bowe in the women’s 1500m. Bowe broke the world record on Nov. 15, only to have Richardson lower the time on Nov. 21.

“It’s pretty easy to tell that we bring out the best in each other,” Bowe said to U.S. Speedskating on Sunday. “When we’re racing together something special happens almost every time.”

In the men’s competition, Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov broke the 500m world record  on Nov. 15, and lowered it again on Nov. 20. Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen shattered the men’s 10,000m world record, taking 5.39 seconds off Sven Kramer’s mark from 2007.

Jansen attributes the women’s world records to the continued development of Bowe and Richardson. Both are converted inline skaters who have become more confident racing on the ice.

Bowe started inline skating when she was eight years old. After graduating from high school, she was offered the opportunity to move to Utah to transition to speed skating for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. But she decided hang up her inline skates to focus on playing collegiate basketball at Florida Atlantic University.

She only started speed skating after being inspired by watching Richardson compete at the 2010 Games.

“Brittany learns more almost daily,” Jansen said. “She is still going to get better.”

Richardson quickly adjusted to racing on the ice, despite being described as “Bambi on ice” when she first started speed skating in 2007. She married Dutch distance skater Jorrit Bergsma in 2015 and moved to the Netherlands. Richardson’s endurance has improved since she started training with her husband, the 2014 Olympic 10,000m champion.

“Those two ladies are dominant right now,” Jansen said about Bowe and Richardson. “It is hard to see anybody else closing the gap they have in the middle distances.”

Jansen, the first speed skater to break 36 seconds in the 500m, seemed surprised that it took so long for the men’s 500m and 10,000m world records to fall. Canada’s Jeremy Wotherspoon held the men’s 500m world record since Nov. of 2007. Kramer’s 10,000m time, which was recorded in Feb. of 2007, was the longest-standing Olympic event world record.

“It’s about time,” Jansen said. “These guys are flying right now.”

No more world records are expected to be broken this season, as the rest of the competition venues are located closer to sea level. Similarly, no world records are expected to be broken at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

“It’s a little bit of a bummer because you would like to see world records at the Olympics, but our sport is not conducive to that,” Jansen said. “Unless you have the Olympics up high.”

Jansen believes U.S. Speedskating will continue to experience positive momentum.

At Sochi 2014, losing became contagious, and the U.S. contingent departed Russia with zero Olympic medals. Jansen now expects the recent success to reverberate throughout the entire team.

“It’s an exciting time for U.S. Speedskating,” Jansen said. “They are making statements, and I don’t think they are finished.”