Speed skater Kristen Santos adds her first gold to growing World Cup resume

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Kristen Santos‘ status improved from Olympic medal contender to favorite on Sunday in Nagoya, Japan.

The short track speed skater built on last week’s two World Cup bronze medals to win the first gold of her career.

Her 1000m victory is the first gold by any American in four years, first individual U.S. win in seven years and first by an American woman in almost 10 years.

Santos moved into the lead with just under four laps to go and managed to stay there through the finish.

She beat out Dutch titan Suzanne Schulting in a sprint to the line. Schulting is the two-time defending overall world champ and the reigning Olympic and world champ in the 1000. Her teammate Xandra Velzeboer, who took 1500m bronze at the 2021 worlds, was third.

“It feels so good,” Santos told US Speedskating. “This is where I won my first individual World Cup medal ever, so it feels really good to now get a gold here.”

Santos, 26, earned that first individual World Cup medal, a 1000m bronze, in November 2019.

That season was cut short due to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the 2020-2021 season was nonexistent aside from the March World Championships, where Santos was fourth in the 500m.

In preparation for a likely Olympic debut this February, the Connecticut native – whose nickname is Puff – started the season with 100m and 1500m bronze at the Olympic venue in Beijing.

At this week’s Nagoya World Cup just one week later, her results included gold in the 1000m, fourth in the 1500, sixth in the 500 (second in the B final) and fifth in the women’s 3000m relay with Maame BineyJulie Letai and Corinne Stoddard.

The relay result puts the U.S. in good standing to send a women’s team to the Olympics for the first time in 12 years. The U.S. is now fifth in the rankings and must remain in the top eight when including its best three of this season’s four World Cup results.

Brandon Kim had the best finish among U.S. men, placing fourth in the 1000m. His previous best was 14th, also at that distance.

2018 Olympian Ryan Pivirotto, the only other American to reach a final round in Nagoya, was 14th in the 1500m.

The World Cup resumes Nov. 18 in Hungary.

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Konnor McClain, U.S. all-around champion, to miss world gymnastics championships

Konnor McClain
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
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U.S. all-around champion Konnor McClain posted that she will miss the world gymnastics championships that start in three weeks due to a back injury, writing that her season is “officially over.”

McClain, 17, was due to vie for a spot on the five-woman world team at a selection camp in two weeks.

“Although this is very upsetting after such a successful year,” she posted. “I’m ready to come back next year stronger and healthier!”

At the U.S. Championships in August, McClain edged Shilese Jones by .75 of a point after Jones fell on the last skill of her last routine of the competition.

McClain became the sixth woman to win the all-around in her senior nationals debut since 2000. The other five later won Olympic and/or world all-around titles, the most recent Simone Biles.

McClain, the 2019 U.S. junior all-around silver medalist, was originally too young for the Tokyo Olympics but became age-eligible when the Games were postponed one year to 2021. She skipped last year’s nationals (and a shot at Olympic Trials) to focus on 2024 after moving from West Virginia to Texas to train under Anna and Valeri Liukin, the parents of 2008 Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin.

A committee will choose the five-woman world team after the selection camp. The top all-around scorer on the first day of the two-day camp is guaranteed to be on the six-woman traveling team, with one of those six being designated an alternate.

McClain and Jones were followed in the U.S. Championships all-around standings by Tokyo Olympic team silver medalist Jordan Chiles, University of Florida freshman Kayla DiCello (who said at nationals that she did not plan to go for the world team) and Tokyo Olympic floor exercise champion Jade Carey.

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U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
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Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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