In short track speed skating, global stars and an American standout ahead of Olympics

ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating Dordrecht - Day 4
Getty Images
0 Comments

Recent Olympics showed that the pool of medal-contending nations in short track speed skating delves deeper than the traditional powers of South Korea, China, the U.S. and Canada.

The just-concluded World Cup season, the best indicator of Olympic medal prospects, marked further proof of that.

The six skaters atop the standings in individual Olympic events — men’s and women’s 500m, 1000m and 1500m — are from six different countries.

The standout continues to be Dutchwoman Suzanne Schulting, who was the lone man or woman ranked in the top four in all three distances this season.

Schulting, who in 2018 became the first Dutch Olympic short track champion (the nation has 42 long-track medals), won every gold at March’s world championships. The caveat then was that competition didn’t include any skaters from China or South Korea, nor Canada’s top skater, Kim Boutin.

But Schulting again swept every distance, this time against many of the world’s best, at the penultimate World Cup stop two weeks ago. Dutch dominance in long-track speed skating is being tested this season, so Schulting may be the Netherlands’ most successful Olympian in Beijing.

The other top women include veterans: Italian Arianna Fontana, who shares the Olympic short track record of eight medals, finished first or second in every 500m this season.

And newcomers: Lee Yu-Bin, a relay-only skater in PyeongChang and at worlds, was the lone South Korean woman to win multiple races this fall. Lee, though, was fourth overall at South Korea’s Olympic Trials in May, which puts her in line for relay-only duty again at the Olympics.

However, four-time Olympic medalist Shim Suk-Hee was removed from the national team for the entire World Cup season, potentially opening up an Olympic spot. Shim, who won the Olympic Trials, faced an investigation earlier this fall after a reported text message exchange that suggested she may have intentionally tripped fellow star Choi Min-Jeong during the 2018 Olympics.

Kristen Santos made three individual podiums this season, giving the U.S. hope for its first Olympic women’s short track medal since 2010. Santos was fourth overall at the 2018 Olympic Trials, where three women made the team. A month before trials, she needed surgery after another skater’s blade sliced her hand and wrist at a World Cup.

Santos can qualify for her first Olympics at trials in two weeks in Utah.

The top-ranked men in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m are all searching for their first individual Olympic medal.

The men’s 500m may be one of the most anticipated events across all sports at the Olympics, given the reigning Olympic champ and world-record holder is Wu Dajing of the host nation.

However, Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor outscored Wu on the World Cup. Liu, born in Budapest to a Hungarian mother and Chinese father, anchored a relay team in PyeongChang that won Hungary’s first Winter Olympic gold medal.

Canadian Pascal Dion, whose best individual Olympic or world champs finish is 10th, topped the 1000m standings this season. South Korean Hwang Dae-Heon won two of the four races, but he sat one out. Hwang won the overall title at South Korea’s Olympic Trials.

Ren Ziwei, a 2018 Olympic relay silver medalist for China, led the 1500m standings.

The U.S. men had zero podiums this season, though 2018 Olympic silver medalist John Henry-Krueger had a pair of second-place finishes for Hungary. Krueger changed nationalities after PyeongChang, citing a lack of financial support in the U.S.

Barring higher-ranked nations giving up their spots, the U.S. will not be part of the Olympic men’s relay for the first time since short track’s Olympic medal debut in 1992.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

0 Comments

Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
Getty
0 Comments

Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!