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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