Shani Davis

Davis, Richardson win 1000m at speed skating trials; redemption for Garcia

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Shani Davis left no doubt in the 1000m Sunday, one day after a strange disqualification allowed him to qualify for the Olympics in the 500m.

Jonathan Garcia, whose personal best skate was wiped out because he didn’t wear ankle transponders Saturday, is also likely headed to the Sochi Olympics in the 1000m.

Davis won the 1000m at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, clinching a berth in Sochi, where he could become the first American man to win a single Winter Olympic event three straight times. Davis took gold in the 1000m at the 2006 and 2010 Games.

Garcia was fourth in the 1000m, an event where the U.S. can send a maximum of four skaters to Sochi. His place on the U.S. Olympic Team is not yet assured, but he’s in a qualifying position. The full Olympic speed skating team is expected to be announced later this week.

Heather Richardson picked up her second win in as many days at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah, capturing the women’s 1000m ahead of Brittany Bowe. They also went one-two in the 500m on Saturday.

The U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials continue, after a day off, with the men’s and women’s 1500m on Tuesday. Davis, Richardson and Bowe are favorites in that distance, too.

Davis won the 1000m in 1 minute, 7.52 seconds. Brian Hansen was second in 1:07.53, followed by Joey Mantia (1:07.88) and Garcia (1:07.95).

Davis has won three of four World Cup 1000m races this season after taking third at the Sochi Olympic venue at the World Single Distance Championships on March 22. He and snowboarders Shaun White and Seth Wescott are vying to be the first American man to win a single Olympic event three times.

“I don’t allow it to weigh on me,” Davis said on NBC. “I simply want to go there, do my best. If I’m the best man that given day, I’ll be more than happy to take home a gold medal and add to my collection. If not, I tried my best, and that’s the best I can do.

“I think I’m skating pretty good. I think the best is still yet to come.”

On Saturday, Davis was fourth in the 500m but would have been outside of Olympic qualifying position if not for Garcia’s disqualification for not wearing ankle timing transponders.

Garcia, who would have originally been fourth, finished sixth in the 500m after his reskate. The U.S. can send a maximum of four men in the 500m and 1000m to the Olympics.

Garcia wore transponders Sunday, evidenced when he waved them in the air after he realized he finished fourth after the final pair crossed.

“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” said Garcia, who joked about his disqualification on NBC. “I didn’t really let it get to me. I was really surprised. Usually, stuff like that shakes me pretty well. But I didn’t really think about. In my mind, I truly believe that I made that [500m] team. I skated fast enough to be on the team. I left here yesterday feeling accomplished. I made it on my own speed. Not having my transponders yesterday didn’t affect my time.”

Hansen, a 2010 Olympian who was third in the 500m on Saturday, could also win a medal in Sochi. He took bronze behind Davis in the first two World Cup races this season.

Mantia, a former inline world champion, is also in the mix but may be better in the 1500m. He shaved .76 off his personal best in the 1000m on Sunday.

In the women’s race, Richardson (1:13.22) and Bowe (1:13.92) were followed by Sugar Todd and Kelly Gunther.

Richardson could take Olympic gold in this event given she’s won three of four World Cup races this year. Bowe took the fourth in a world-record time.

The U.S. has not won a women’s speed skating medal at the Olympics since 2002.

“I think it’s very likely to change,” Richardson said of the drought on NBC. “I think this is the piece to put the whole puzzle together in Sochi.”

Todd, who also qualified third in the 500m on Saturday, skated a personal best 1:15.72.

For fourth, Gunther edged three-time Olympian Elli Ochowicz with a personal best 1:16.43. Ochowicz was .08 slower, finishing fifth for the second straight day in two events where the U.S. can send a maximum of four women to Sochi.

Gunther agonizingly missed the 2010 Olympic team due to another skater’s reskate. One month after the Vancouver Games, she suffered a double compound fracture of a bone just below her left ankle in a skating crash at the Utah Olympic Oval. The cut was so deep, and there was so much blood, that there was concern she could lose her foot.

“I couldn’t even believe it,” Gunther said on NBC. “After everything I’ve been through, fighting back. My dream has always been to go to the Olympics.”

Shiffrin edged in Lienz slalom by record breaker

Korea Olympic hockey coach takes high school job

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Sarah Murray, who coached the joint Korean Olympic women’s hockey team in PyeongChang, will coach the Owatonna High School girls team in her native Minnesota starting this fall.

Murray has not responded to a request for comment though the school on whether this means she is leaving the South Korean national team program.

Murray, 30, guided the joint Korean Olympic team to an 0-5 record. The tournament underdogs scored in three games and were within two goals of Switzerland.

Three weeks before the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee approved adding 12 North Koreans to the South Korean Olympic women’s hockey team, making it the first joint Korean team in any Olympic event.

Murray initially had mixed feelings.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s so historic, to have two countries so divided come together through sports,” Murray said in January, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I think the story is great, and to be a part of it is important. But at the same time, it’s mixed feelings because it’s at the expense of, ‘We don’t get to play our full roster.’”

She expressed optimism after the Games.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

Murray won two NCAA titles as a player at Minnesota-Duluth. Her father, Andy Murray, spent 10 seasons coaching the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues in the 2000s.

She replaces an Otawonna coach who stepped down to focus on the girls lacrosse program and spend more time with his family.

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Michael Phelps launches mental health campaign

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Michael Phelps was hanging at the pool on Tuesday.

No, he’s not planning another comeback.

He’s got a bigger goal to tackle.

Mental health.

After revealing the depths of his depression — and even thoughts of suicide after his second drunken-driving arrest — Phelps is hoping to make a difference for those who are dealing with similar issues.

The 23-time Olympic gold medalist announced a partnership with Talkspace, which provides online therapy, and said he considers it a higher calling than anything he ever did as a swimmer.

“Somebody told me yesterday about his daughter going through a very, very deep depression and not really wanting to be alive,” Phelps said in an interview with The Associated Press. “She read stories about me opening up. He told me how much that helped her. For me, that’s way bigger than ever winning gold medals. The chance to potentially save a life, to give that person an opportunity to grow and learn and help someone else, there’s nothing better in life.”

Despite his unprecedented success as an athlete, Phelps went through plenty of dark moments.

His first DUI arrest came when he was just 19, a few months after he won six gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was briefly suspended after a picture emerged of him smoking from a marijuana pipe after his record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. He struggled to get motivated heading into the 2012 Olympics.

But his low point came in 2014, after he abandoned retirement to compete in a fifth Olympics only to be arrested again for driving under the influence. He checked into an Arizona rehab clinic and finally realized just how much he was hurting — so much so, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go on living.

“I thought it would make things easier,” Phelps recalled. “I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there. But the more I thought about it, I wanted to find a different route. I wanted to see if I could find some help. I wanted to see if I could get better.”

Phelps said he’s in a much better place these days. He’s happily married and living in suburban Phoenix with two small children, 2-year-old Boomer and 3-month-old Beckett. He’s satisfied with his career, saying there’s nothing left to accomplish at the pool.

But there are times that he struggles with depression and anxiety.

He figures it will be that way for the rest of his life.

“I still go through times that are very challenging. I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I’m not in a good mental state,” Phelps said. “I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”

He hopes that his deal with Talkspace, which helps connect those in need with therapists through a variety on online conduits, will help to remove some of the stigma associated with mental health — especially for those who are reluctant to seek out help in person or may not have the financial means.

Phelps said mental health is especially important when suicide rates are on the rise and a rash of school shootings have rocked the United States.

“I feel like with all the issues we have in this world, this is something where I can truly make significant impact,” he said.

The 32-year-old Phelps has kept himself in good condition since Rio. He rides a bike nearly every day and still works out at the pool at least twice a week. When he stepped on the scales Monday, he weighed 192 pounds — 3 pounds less than he was at his last Olympics.

“Could I come back? Yes,” he said. “I think it would be even easier than it was in 2014 (when he officially ended his first attempt at retirement). I’m in better shape now than I was then.”

But, with those tantalizing words, Phelps quickly struck down any thought of returning to competitive swimming.

He simply doesn’t have any motivation to add to his record haul.

“Would I like to break a world record? Yeah, obviously,” Phelps said. “But I also know what I did to prepare for Rio. I thought I did a pretty damn good job of getting myself ready to go. I didn’t want any what-ifs 20 years down the road. Twenty years down the road, I won’t have that. I’ll be able to say I was happy with how I finished my career. I was happy to be able to have my family there, to have my first-born there to watch. I’ll have those memories forever.

“All good things must come to an end eventually. That was the best way to go out.”

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