U.S. Olympic short track team roster finalized on last day of trials

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Returning Olympian Maame Biney and five more short track speed skaters qualified for the U.S. team for Beijing on the last day of the Olympic trials on Sunday.

Corinne Stoddard, Julie Letai, Eunice Lee, Ryan Pivirotto and Andrew Heo also qualified based on results over three days of racing at the Utah Olympic Oval outside Salt Lake City.

They join Kristen Santos, the lone American man or woman ranked in the top 10 in the world in any event, who grabbed the first spot on the team on Saturday.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for 2022 Olympics

Santos and Biney combined to win the six races at trials — two each at 500m, 1000m and 1500m. Santos won four; Biney took two.

Santos, ranked second in the world in the 1000m and fourth in the 1500m, is the hope to win the U.S.’ first Olympic women’s short track medal since 2010.

Biney, born in Ghana and raised in Virginia, was the lone skater at trials who has competed at the Olympics before. She was 14th and 31st in two events in 2018 at age 18.

“It’s been a rough couple of years,” Biney, who considered quitting the sport while struggling emotionally and with injury during this Olympic cycle, said through sobs. “I’ve been through so much mentally, and also my dad isn’t here [in attendance].”

Stoddard and Letai joined Santos and Biney on the World Cup team this fall.

Lee, a 17-year-old who has never been on the national team, is in line to be the youngest U.S. short track skater to compete at the Olympics since 1998, according to Olympedia.org, should she be chosen to compete in the relay.

Lee, a former figure skater and competitive gymnast who was born in South Korea, did not make the team in any individual events.

On the men’s side, Pivirotto eyes his Olympic competition debut after making the team in 2018 for the relay pool but not being selected to race in PyeongChang.

“It’s going to be different [than in 2018],” he said, “and I cannot wait.”

Heo beat out Brandon Kim, the highest-ranked American man at No. 29 in the world, for the second spot. Heo skated with a nearly three-inch-long scar on his left forearm from a summer 2019 training crash that required 24 stitches.

The U.S. won at least one men’s short track medal at the last five Olympics, but this year failed to qualify a relay team for the first time since 1992.

Therefore, the U.S. has two total U.S. men going to the Olympics, its smallest contingent since 1992, when the sport made its medal-event debut.

ON HER TURF: Meet the U.S. Olympic women’s short track team

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”