Key information as short track speedskating World Cup season starts

J.R. Celski
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The World Cup short track speedskating season kicks off in Shanghai on Thursday, beginning a stretch that will determine the makeup of Olympic short track teams.

A nation earns Olympic berths via results at the third and fourth World Cup stops (Nov. 7-10 in Turin, Italy, and Nov. 14-17 in Kolomna, Russia).

So, the first two World Cup stops — Thursday through Sunday in Shanghai and Oct. 3-6 in Seoul — will provide a good prediction of what to expect but have no impact on Olympic quotas.

The U.S. men and women should have no problem qualifying a full Olympic team of five men and five women. All the U.S. must do is have top-eight ranked relay teams (top seven if Russia is outside the top eight) from the November World Cup stops. The U.S. entered men’s and women’s relays into each of the last five Olympics, winning bronze medals in each in 2010.

The skaters who will comprise the U.S. Olympic Team will be determined at Jan. 2-5 trials in Kearns, Utah.

For Shanghai, the entire U.S. teams that qualified from the National Championships are on the entry list: J.R. CelskiChris CrevelingJordan MaloneJohn-Henry KruegerEddy Alvarez and Jeff Simon for the men; Jessica SmithAlyson DudekEmily ScottSarah ChenLana Gehring and You Young “Sally” Chea for the women.

The biggest U.S. stars from the 2010 Olympics, Apolo Ohno and Katherine Reutter, are retired. Celski, who broke the world record in the 500 meters last season, is considered the top U.S. medal threat for Sochi.

Canada, a traditional power in short track, already named its Olympic team. Every member of its expected men’s team for Sochi is on the entry list for Shanghai, including its star, Charles Hamelin. One member of its women’s Olympic team is not on the entry list, Marie-Eve Drolet, but its top medal threats are (Marianne St-Gelais, Valerie Maltais, Jessica Gregg).

South Korea and China remain the most dominant men’s and women’s nations.

South Korea is particularly stacked on the men’s side, but the 2012 overall world champion, Kwak Yoon-Gy, is not on the Shanghai entry list. (UPDATE: Kwak did not make the Olympic team for South Korea, which had its trials in April).

Russia’s best hope is Viktor Ahn, who won triple gold as Ahn Hyun-Soo for South Korea at the 2006 Olympics before switching countries. He is entered in Shanghai.

The most decorated women’s Olympic short track speedskater of all time, China’s Wang Meng, is on the Shanghai entry list as she bids for her third Games. Wang, who won the 500, 1,000 and 3,000 relay at the most recent Olympics and World Championships and was suspended after fighting a coach in between, can make history in Sochi.

With one gold, she will break the tie for most Olympic golds won by a short track speedskater. With two medals of any color, she will tie Ohno for most Olympic medals won by a short track speedskater.

The biggest threats to Wang, 28, are South Koreans Park Seung-Hi, 21, and Shim Suk-Hee, 16. They are both entered in Shanghai.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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