Chris Creveling

U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Team finalized

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J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith qualified for every distance in Sochi, while the final four members of the eight-skater U.S. Olympic Short Track Team were decided Sunday.

Celski and Smith, who already won the 500m and 1500m at the U.S. Olympic Trials, prevailed in the 1000m on the final day of competition at the Utah Olympic Oval.

“The USA is here to play,” Celski said on NBC. “We’re going to go to Sochi and represent.”

Eddy Alvarez and Emily Scott, who made their first Olympics on Saturday, also finished in qualifying position for all three distances.

They’ll be joined on the U.S. Olympic Team by 2010 Olympians Jordan Malone and Alyson Dudek and first-time Olympians Chris Creveling and Kyle Carr.

The U.S. team headed to Sochi is a rebuilt one following the retirements of individual Olympic medalists Apolo Ohno and Katherine Reutter and scandals involving skate tampering and coaching abuse that caused a reorganization of US Speedskating.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Smith said on NBC. “I’m excited for what the future holds. All three of us [women] here are looking for the gold and the podium as well. We’re looking to bring home all the medals.”

Creveling, 27, all but booked his spot by winning the first 1000m final on Sunday, handing the two-time Olympic bronze medalist Celski his first loss at trials. It looks like Creveling will skate the 1000m and 1500m in Sochi.

Malone, 29, looks likely to skate the 500m in Sochi despite pulling out of the second 1000m with bruised ribs and a strained hip tendon from an earlier crash Sunday.

Carr wasn’t in the top three in any individual distance but should have a spot on the preliminary-round relay in Sochi.

The relay team with Celski and Malone won bronze in 2010.

The women had one spot left to be decided on their three-skater Olympic Team on Sunday. The favorite going in was Dudek, and she held on despite finishing third in the 1000m, a distance the U.S. women will have two spots in at Sochi.

Dudek will be able to skate the 500m and 1500m at the Olympics. The U.S. women did not qualify an Olympic relay team, a disappointment after Dudek and Co. won bronze in 2010.

“I’m more prepared now,” Dudek said on NBCSN. “It’s going to be completely different.”

Here are the final individual distance and overall standings from the U.S. Olympic Trials:

Men’s 500m
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,920 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Jordan Malone — 1,357 (clinched Olympic berth)

Men’s 1000m
1. J.R. Celski — 2,300 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Chris Creveling — 1,810 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Eddy Alvarez — 1,472 (clinched Olympic berth)

Men’s 1500m
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,632 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Chris Creveling — 1,428 (clinched Olympic berth)

Women’s 500m
1. Jessica Smith — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 1,840 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Alyson Dudek — 1,760 (clinched Olympic berth)

Women’s 1000m
1. Jessica Smith — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 2,000 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Alyson Dudek — 1,600

Women’s 1500m
1. Jessica Smith — 2,300 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 2,200 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Alyson Dudek — 1,600 (clinched Olympic berth)

Here are the overall distance standings:

Men
1. J.R. Celski — 6,800 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 4,704 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Chris Creveling — 3,674 (clinched Olympic berth)
4. Kyle Carr — 2,927 (clinched Olympic berth)
5. Jordan Malone — 2,917 (clinched Olympic berth)
6. Travis Jayner — 2,008

Women
1. Jessica Smith — 6,800 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 5,640 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Alyson Dudek — 4,640 (clinched Olympic berth)
4. Sarah Chen — 3,128

Apolo Ohno switches from ice to booth

Chad le Clos seeks Sun Yang’s Olympic gold medal for doping case

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NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Chad le Clos believes he has a claim on Sun Yang’s gold medal from the Rio Olympics, with a verdict imminent on the Chinese swimmer’s latest doping case.

“He should be banned. It’s as simple as that,” Le Clos said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “Anyone who tests positive should be banned. I should get my gold medal back from Rio.

“Not for the moment. I lost that. I don’t really care about that,” Le Clos added on Wednesday. “It’s just for my record. If I break my leg and I can’t swim again I want my record to say, ‘Two individual golds, two individual silvers.’ Because that’s what it should be.”

Le Clos’ Olympic record currently contains one gold medal and three silvers — including a second-place finish to Sun in the Rio Olympic 200m free

Odds are, though, that Sun won’t lose any Olympic titles when the Court of Arbitration for Sport issues its ruling over his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard used a hammer to smash a container holding Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed after swimming federation FINA merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

A three-time Olympic champion, Sun could be banished from the sport for up to eight years but any ban likely won’t be backdated before September 2018 — meaning all of his Olympic medals seem safe.

But there’s also the fact that international swimming authorities worked to protect Sun from being banned, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

“I just hope the system and whatever we have is really accurate,” said Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, who won three golds in Rio. “I just hope the decisions they are making is fair and is for the sport and not for other reasons.”

The medals that Sun risks losing most are the two golds that he won at last year’s world championships in the 200m and 400m frees. At the event in Gwangju, South Korea, fellow medalists Mack Horton of Australia and Duncan Scott of Britain refused to stand with him on the podium.

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him from competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“I have nothing against anybody. It’s not personal,” Le Clos said. “It’s just how the world should be. If you cheat or if you do something wrong, like if you false start, you get disqualified. It’s simple as that.”

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U.S. Olympic luger Emily Sweeney looks forward from depression bout

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Luge’s World Cup campaign ends this weekend in Germany, where most of the best 100 sliders in the sport will be looking to close their international seasons on a high note.

Emily Sweeney won’t be among them.

Her season ended a couple weeks ago, on her terms.

The U.S. veteran is officially two years into her recovery from a crash at the PyeongChang Olympics that she walked away from — even with a broken neck and broken back — and two years away, she hopes, from being a medal contender at the Beijing Games.

She decided to listen to her body and step away from the frantic end of the season, heading home instead to meet her sister’s new baby and formulate a plan for her offseason.

Here’s what she has learned: Fractures heal, but everything else takes time. So while her body still betrays her from time to time on the track, an additional focus on the mental game is what Sweeney hopes will get her to the medal podium in Beijing in 2022.

“I am very comfortable about thinking about my weaknesses because I failed so much early on,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t make two Olympic teams right in a row. I constantly had to look at myself and say ‘What’s wrong? What am I not like?’ I had to be creative with my training and with the whole process. And so, I think I’m pretty comfortable with challenges.”

That’s why, this season, when she felt like her body couldn’t do it anymore she simply went home. The decision was not easy: Her team is still competing, she has plenty of friends on the circuit and her longtime boyfriend — Italian star Dominik Fischnaller — is a serious contender to win the men’s World Cup overall title.

But a setback right now could throw a serious wrench into her Olympic plans. The problem was pressure, not in the sense of what’s comes with the prospects of winning or losing in competition, but the massive gravitational force that sliders feel and fight through when they are on the ice at speeds often topping 80mph. It takes tremendous strength, and Sweeney’s neck still isn’t always up to the challenge. So, with wear and tear of the season taking a toll, she headed home.

“It’s not a question of if I’m good enough,” said Sweeney, who won a medal at last season’s world championships — cementing her status as one of the fastest women on ice. “I see it in my splits. I would have first-place splits, then get to the pressure and I ended up 15th. I just couldn’t keep going through this cycle of pushing it, pushing it, pushing it and then losing all my speed as soon as I can’t hold my head up anymore.”

So she’s working on her body and her mind.

Sweeney is one of the most-upbeat sliders on the luge circuit; always smiling, always happy, and most of the time her good mood is genuine. After the crash, however, the good mood wasn’t always there, and it took Sweeney some time to realize that there was more wrong than just the fractures in her neck and back.

“I went into a depression,” Sweeney said. “It’s weird saying that. But it feels foreign to me to say I broke my neck and my back two years ago. And it feels dramatic to say, which I guess I need to just get more comfortable with that. But I think that just the way I was raised was like, ‘All right, brush it off and move on.’ And that’s why I think I appear a lot of times like it’s just sunshine and rainbows, but this one forced me to stop. But you have to. And the alternative is to stay at that low and that just becomes miserable.”

From therapy came a plan: Do one thing a day to feel better toward the ultimate goal of medaling in 2022.

Most days, she succeeds. When Sweeney is right, especially in sprint events, few women in the world have a chance of catching her. Her sliding career is peaking. Her mental game, she thinks, is catching up.

And now she’s got two years to put the whole package together.

“Being an Olympian was my dream since I was 7 years old,” Sweeney said. “And then I became an Olympian, and I said, ‘Well, that’s not enough. I want a medal.’”

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