U.S. Speedskating keeps rolling, thanks to a Florida hotbed

ISU World Cup Speed Skating - Tomaszow Mazowiecki Poland
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Hopes are rising for the U.S. to win its first individual Olympic speed skating medal since 2010 after the first two days of the World Cup season. Thank the city of Ocala, Florida.

Brittany Bowe and Erin Jackson won races in Poland on Saturday, a day after Jackson became the first Black woman to win a long-track World Cup race. Also Saturday, Joey Mantia placed third in the men’s 1500m.

Bowe, Jackson and Mantia all grew up in Ocala, training at different times under inline coach Renee Hildebrand before converting to the ice. Hildebrand, a grandmother in her late 50s, has molded skaters at a roller rink behind a Save A Lot.

Bowe, the most accomplished active U.S. speed skater, earned her 31st World Cup victory, taking the 1000m in 1:14.78. She is the reigning world champion and world-record holder in the event and was fourth at the 2018 Olympics, missing a medal by .38.

Jackson won a 500m for the second consecutive day. She clocked 37.55 seconds, again defeating a field that included the reigning Olympic champion and all three 2021 World Championships medalists. Jackson, who took up speed skating four months before qualifying for PyeongChang, came into the season with a best World Cup finish of ninth.

“I’m still learning,” Jackson joked with Dutch broadcaster NOS. “I was watching the video from [Friday’s win] and thinking, that’s kind of embarrassing skating, but I’ll take the win.”

Mantia, a three-time world champion in the mass start, took third in the 1500m on Saturday.

In 2014, the U.S. was shut out of the Olympic speed skating medals for the first time since 1984. In 2018, the U.S. earned one bronze in the women’s team pursuit (including Bowe). The U.S.’ last individual medal was Shani Davis‘ silver in the 1500m in 2010.

Speed skating is the U.S.’ most successful Winter Olympic sport by total medals and gold medals. Only the Netherlands and Norway have won more Olympic speed skating medals than the U.S.

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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell

At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich

A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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