Suzanne Schulting wins every gold at short track worlds, thinking of late teammate

Suzanne Schulting
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Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands won all five events at the world short track speed skating championships over the weekend, but one gold medal stood out in particular.

Schulting, 23, and teammates were in tears after she won the 500m on Saturday on home ice in Dordrecht.

“The first thing I thought about really was Lara,” Schulting said, according to an International Skating Union translation.

At the last world championships in 2019, countrywoman Lara van Ruijven took gold in the 500m sprint. Van Ruijven died last July following complications from an autoimmune disorder after feeling ill at a training camp in the French Pyrenees. She was 27.

“You are in my heart forever,” Schulting wrote on Instagram then.

“After we left the hospital in Perpignan and went back to Font-Romeu, after saying goodbye to Lara, I had set myself an important goal,” Schulting said on Saturday, according to the ISU. “I wanted to keep the world title in the 500m within the Dutch team.”

Schulting was not previously known as a sprinter. In 2018, she won the 1000m in PyeongChang to become the first Olympic short track champion for the Netherlands, the most successful nation in long-track speed skating with 42 gold medals. (Schulting started out in long track. A coach suggested she try short track to practice skating corners, and she got hooked.)

In 2019 and 2020, she ranked No. 1 in the world in the 1000m and the 1500m. She was outside the top five in the 500m, uniquely often an all-out race for a little more than 40 seconds, where the start can be crucial.

Schulting had no chance to put her offseason sprint work to the test in international competition until last week. The World Cup season, which usually starts in the autumn, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Expectations increased for Schulting to excel at her home worlds after South Korea and China, historically the world’s top two short track nations, did not enter teams. Kim Boutin, the top female skater from Canada, another strong nation, also chose not to travel.

Before Saturday’s 500m final, van Ruijven’s last race was shown on big screens inside the arena, according to the ISU.

Schulting had the advantageous lane one, closest to the inside, and took the lead going into the first turn. She held it through the full four and a half laps, denying reigning Olympic champion Arianna Fontana of Italy.

“It’s so impressive to see that, with all the pressure, everybody expects her to do it, she still does it,” teammate and bronze medalist Selma Poutsma said.

Kristen Santos was fourth, the best finish for an American at worlds since the nation’s last medal in 2014.

Schulting won the 1500m and 500m on Saturday, then the 1000m, 3000m and relay on Sunday, taking the overall title, too. She became the second woman to win every gold at a worlds after Canadian Sylvie Daigle in 1983, according to Gracenote.

Also at worlds, Canadian Charles Hamelin won the men’s 1500m at age 36, becoming one of the oldest individual world champions in history. Hamelin, a medalist at the last four Olympics, including three golds, contemplated retirement after the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Since deciding to skate on, he came back from right knee surgery and an ankle sprain that sidelined him for three months. In 2022 at his last Olympics, he eyes what he says is the last missing piece from his trophy cabinet: an Olympic 1000m medal.

Hungarian brothers Shaoang Liu and Shaolin Sandor Liu won the 500m and 1000m, respectively, with Shaoang taking the men’s overall title.

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Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
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Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events in her career and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1904-08.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off from after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

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Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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