Kristen Santos is first U.S. Olympic short track qualifier, eyes end to drought

US Short Track Speed Skating Olympic Trials
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Kristen Santos accomplished what she could not four years ago, qualifying for the Olympics. Next, she’ll try to achieve what no U.S. woman has done in 12 years — climb on the Olympic short track medal stand.

Santos, who considered not competing at trials, won three of the first four events between Friday and Saturday to become the first man or woman to make the short track team for Beijing.

She did so four years after just missing the roster when she competed in a cast after another skater’s blade sliced her hand and wrist weeks earlier.

She was fourth overall at those 2018 Olympic Trials. Three women made that team.

The U.S. women’s team is up to the maximum five spots this year, thanks in part to Santos’ international success this fall.

She made three World Cup podiums, including the first individual victory for an American woman in nine years. She’s ranked second in the world in the 1000m and fourth in the 1500m. Santos is the lone American man or woman ranked in the top 10 in the world in any event.

Last season, Santos placed fourth in the 500m at a watered-down world championships, just missing the first U.S. world champs medal since 2014. In February, she has a chance to win the first individual Olympic women’s medal for the U.S. since 2010.

SHORT TRACK TRIALS: Broadcast Schedule | Athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Others in contention to make the Olympic team going into Sunday’s final day of trials: Maame Biney, the lone man or woman in the trials field who has competed at the Olympics. Biney is the only woman other than Santos to win on the first two days, taking Saturday’s 1000m after Santos fell in the final.

On the men’s side, Ryan PivirottoBrandon Kim and Andrew Heo are fighting for two Olympic spots. Pivirotto has two wins, and Kim and Heo each have one with two Sunday events left.

Pivirotto made the 2018 Olympic team in the relay pool but was not chosen to compete in PyeongChang.

Kim, 20, is coached by Simon Cho, a 2010 Olympic relay bronze medalist who in 2013 was banned for bending an opponent’s skate blade, left the sport, then returned to guide the Potomac Skating Club in the D.C. area.

ON HER TURF: Santos’ unique journey to the Olympics

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