Speed skater Kristen Santos accomplishes what no U.S. woman had in a decade

2021/2022 ISU World Cup Short Track - Day 2
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Kristen Santos entered this short track speed skating season focused on making smart moves, as she told TeamUSA.org.

The 26-year-old was off to a fast start with accomplishing that goal as she earned two bronze medals at this weekend’s season-opening World Cup in Beijing.

The last time an American woman won two medals at a single World Cup – or even across a World Cup season – was in February 2012 when Lana Gehring won both the 1000 and 1500m races in the Dutch city of Dordrecht.

Held in the Capital Indoor Stadium, this season’s first World Cup competition also served as the Olympic test event for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The results bode well for what Santos hopes will be her first Olympic appearance.

Santos has already been the top American this Olympic quadrennial – winning her first individual World Cup medal in November 2019, finishing fourth in the 500m at the 2021 World Championships and setting both the 1000m and 1500m American records – and further cemented herself in that position.

On Saturday, the first day of finals, Santos was second in both her 1500m quarterfinal and semifinal. Then she was third in the final, thousandths of a second from gold and silver.

Yubin Lee of Korea won in 2:21.833, with reigning overall world silver medalist Courtney Sarault of Canada crossing in 2:22.167 and Santos at 2:22.176.

Santos received a penalty in her 500m heat that day.

On Sunday, she won her 1000m quarterfinal, was second in the semifinal to reigning Olympic and two-time world champion Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands, then took bronze in the final behind Schulting and Korea’s Jiyoo Kim. Less than a second separated those three and Italy’s Arianna Fontana, an eight-time Olympic medalist.

Also Sunday, Santos was part of the women’s 3000m relay team that finished fifth with a B final win and set a new American record.

2018 Olympian Maame BineyJulie Letai, Santos and Corinne Stoddard lowered the record from 4:08.408, which had stood since 2016, to 4:08.014 in Saturday’s semifinals. In the B final, they broke that one by nearly three seconds, going 4:05.302.

That team is trying to qualify the U.S. for the Olympic women’s relay for the first time since 2010.

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Coco Gauff rallies past 16-year-old at French Open

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff rallied to defeat 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the French Open third round in Gauff’s first Grand Slam singles match against a younger opponent.

The sixth seed Gauff, the 2022 French Open runner-up, outlasted Andreeva 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1 to reach the fourth round, where she will play Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova or American Kayla Day.

“She’s super young, so she has a lot to look forward to,” Gauff, 19, said on Tennis Channel. “I’m sure we’re going to have many more battles in the future. … I remember when I was 16. I didn’t care who I was playing against, and she has that kind of game and mentality, too.”

Gauff could play top seed and defending champ Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals. Swiatek on Saturday thumped 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu of China 6-0, 6-0, winning 50 of the 67 points in a 51-minute match.

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This week, Andreeva became the youngest player to win a French Open main draw match since 2005 (when 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria made the quarterfinals). She was bidding to become the youngest to make the last 16 of any major since Gauff’s breakout as a 15-year-old.

The American made it that far at 2019 Wimbledon (beating Venus Williams in her Grand Slam main draw debut) and the 2020 Australian Open (beating defending champion Naomi Osaka) before turning 16. At last year’s French Open, Gauff became the youngest player to make a Grand Slam final since Maria Sharapova won 2004 Wimbledon at 17.

This was only Gauff’s third match against a younger player dating to her tour debut in 2019. It took Gauff 50 Grand Slam matches to finally face a younger player on this stage, a testament to how ahead of the curve she was (and still is).

While Gauff is the only teenager ranked in the top 49 in the world, Andreeva is the highest-ranked player under the age of 18 at No. 143 (and around No. 100 after the French). And she doesn’t turn 17 until next April. Andreeva dropped just six games in her first two matches at this French Open, fewest of any woman.

Gauff is the last seeded American woman left in the draw after No. 3 Jessica Pegula, No. 20 Madison Keys and No. 32 Shelby Rogers previously lost.

The last U.S. woman to win a major title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

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Rafael Nadal expected to miss rest of 2023 season after surgery

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is expected to need five months to recover from arthroscopic surgery for a left hip flexor injury that kept him out of the French Open, effectively ruling him out for the rest of 2023 ATP tournament season.

Nadal underwent the surgery Friday night in Barcelona on the eve of his 37th birthday. He posted that, if all goes well, the recovery time is five months.

The timetable leaves open the possibility that Nadal could return for the Nov. 21-26 Davis Cup Finals team event in Malaga, Spain, which take place after the ATP Tour tournament season ends.

Nadal announced on May 18 that he had to withdraw from the French Open, a tournament he won a record 14 times, due to the injury that’s sidelined him since January’s Australian Open.

Nadal also said he will likely retire from professional tennis in the second half of 2024 after a farewell season that he hopes includes playing at Roland Garros twice — for the French Open and then the Paris Olympics.

When Nadal returns to competition, he will be older than any previous Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era.

Nadal is tied with Novak Djokovic for the men’s record 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

While Nadal needs to be one of the four-highest ranked Spanish men after next year’s French Open for direct Olympic qualification in singles, he can, essentially, temporarily freeze his ranking in the top 20 under injury protection rules.

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