Kristen Santos mulls sitting out, then sweeps to open Olympic short track trials

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Kristen Santos just missed the 2018 Olympic team. She’s leaving no doubt this time despite considering not racing the Olympic Trials.

Santos, the lone American short track speed skater ranked in the world top 20, won both races on the first of three days of the Olympic Trials at the 2002 Olympic Oval outside Salt Lake City. She took the 1500m, then shattered her American record in the 500m by nearly a half-second.

“I was debating racing this weekend because I have an issue with my boot,” said Santos, who if she sat out could have petitioned for an Olympic spot. “Just a pressure point that’s very, very sensitive. But it’s feeling a lot better today.”

If Santos wins either the second 1500m on Saturday or the second 500m on Sunday, she will qualify for her first Olympic team. There are many other paths to Beijing, but those are the simplest.

Four years ago, Santos finished fourth overall at Olympic Trials. The top three made the team. Santos was competing weeks after another skater’s blade sliced her hand and wrist, requiring surgery.

SHORT TRACK TRIALS: Broadcast Schedule

Santos used this quadrennium to become an Olympic medal contender. She made three World Cup podiums this fall, including the first individual victory for an American woman in nine years.

Thanks in part to Santos, the U.S. will have the maximum five women at the Olympics after qualifying a relay for the first time since 2010, the last time any U.S. woman won an Olympic medal.

Maame Biney, the lone skater at trials with Olympic competition experience, finished second to Santos in Friday’s 500m. Biney, a 21-year-old born in Ghana and raised in Virginia, is in good position to make the Olympic team come Sunday.

The U.S. has two men’s Olympic spots, its fewest since the sport’s medal-event debut in 1992. In another first since 1992, no prior Olympic medalists (men or women) are going out for the Olympic team.

Ryan Pivirotto, who made the 2018 Olympic team in the relay pool but didn’t compete, won the first men’s 1500m on Friday.

Brandon Kim, the highest-ranked U.S. man at No. 29 in the world, won the first 500m ahead of Pivirotto. Kim’s hopes took a hit when he crashed in the semifinals of the first 1500m.

The two U.S. male Olympic team members will not be known until the last day of trials Sunday.

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