Olympic medalists J.R. Celski and Katharine Reutter-Adamek headline the U.S. Olympic short track speed skating trials, live on NBC, NBCSN and streaming on NBCOlympics.com from Friday through Sunday.
The top five men and three women from trials in Kearns, Utah, will make up the U.S. Olympic team for Pyeongchang.
The best Olympic medal prospects lie with the men, four of whom teamed up in November to break the 5000m relay world record. The only U.S. speed skating medal in Sochi — a silver — came in that relay.
Celski anchored that relay, earning his third Olympic medal. Celski debuted at the Winter Games in 2010, earning bronzes in the 1500m and the relay five months after needing 60 stitches to sew a left-leg gash caused by his own skate blade in a fall.
He’s also the only U.S. skater to earn an individual World Cup medal in the last 13 months, a pair of bronzes.
Each day at trials, the men and women will twice skate rounds of one of three individual Olympic distances (1500m on Friday, 500m on Saturday and 1000m on Sunday).
For the men, the top two skaters each day are in line to make the Olympic team, unless that results in six different men.
In that case, the runner-up skater with the lowest standing combining all six races will not make the Olympic team. Basically, if and when a skater gets top two in two distances, everyone in the top two for all distances is safe.
If taking the top two each day results in fewer than five different men, then the Olympic team will be rounded out by the next highest-ranked skaters in overall standings combining all six races.
For the women, the winner of each distance will make the Olympic team. If a woman wins multiple distances, then second-ranked skaters in each distance come into play, with priority given to the runner-up with the highest ranking combining all six races.
If the same two women finish first and second in every distance, then the final Olympic spot will go to the third-ranked woman in the 1500m, the only event where the U.S. earned the maximum three Olympic spots.
The U.S. women earned three Olympic spots rather than the maximum five because they failed to qualify a relay for the Olympics for the second straight time.
If Celski is the men’s favorite, then John-Henry Krueger is right behind.
Krueger was the No. 2 U.S. man behind Celski in the fall World Cup season and is the only U.S. skater other than Celski to earn an individual World Cup medal in this Olympic cycle.
The 22-year-old based in the Netherlands was favored to make the 2014 Olympic team but contracted swine flu the week of trials and missed out.
Celski is the only man with Olympic experience competing this week.
The U.S. women are in the midst of a 5 1/2-year World Cup medal drought, but they have experience and a bright young talent.
Reutter-Adamek was the world’s No. 2 skater in 2011 but retired in 2013 due to back and hip injuries. She came out of retirement in 2016 and broke her American record in the 1000m at her second World Cup.
She missed this fall’s first two World Cups due to a January concussion but was the top American at the most recent World Cup in the 1000m and 1500m.
Jessica Kooreman won the 2014 Olympic Trials — and was fourth in the 1000m in Sochi — and looks primed to make her second Olympic team at age 34. She ranks first or second among Americans this season in all three Olympic distances.
Then there’s Maame Biney, a 17-year-old who moved to the D.C. area from Ghana with her father at age 5.
Biney is the top U.S. woman internationally in the 500m after breaking out in August by winning the overall standings in the U.S.’ World Cup qualifier. She also placed seventh overall at last season’s junior worlds, including a bronze in the 500m.
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U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials