At Dutch speed skating trials, joy for some Olympic gold medalists, pain for others

Dutch Olympic Speed Skating Qualification Tournament - Day 2
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At the Dutch Olympic speed skating trials, legends Ireen Wüst and Sven Kramer won zero events, but Wüst is likely to be named to the team and Kramer a possibility after second- and third-place finishes.

The Netherlands won seven of the 10 individual distance races at the 2018 Olympics. Just one of those gold medalists won an event at the Olympic Trials, and it looks like at least two of them will miss the Olympic team altogether.

Kjeld Nuis, the only speed skater to win two individual events at the PyeongChang Games, rebounded from a fourth-place finish in Wednesday’s 1000m to win his other gold-medal event, the 1500m, on Thursday and book a spot on the team in his last race.

Kramer, the most decorated male Olympic speed skater with nine medals, must wait for a selection committee to decide if he merits a spot after finishing third in his lone event, the 5000m. Kramer won that event at the last three Olympics, but with Olympic roster sizes limited to nine total skaters per gender, third place didn’t guarantee selection.

The Dutch federation created a matrix before the trials to rank skaters by the nation’s medal chances in each event. If selectors choose the nine-man team directly from the matrix, Kramer would miss it by one spot.

However, that might not happen. Kramer could be put on the team to skate the team pursuit or the mass start, in addition to the 5000m. Kramer skated both those events at the 2018 Olympics.

The current ninth skater in the matrix, Dai Dai N’tab, finished second in the 500m at trials, but he is not suited to the team pursuit or mass start, which are distance events. The Netherlands has other skaters ranked higher who are capable of competing in the team pursuit or mass start, though.

Are those skaters sufficient for the federation, or does it value Kramer’s presence? The federation will announce the team on Monday, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS.

In the women’s events, career Olympic speed skating medals leader Wüst appeared to make a fifth Olympic team with a second-place finish in Wednesday’s 1500m, though it’s not totally assured. Wüst also placed third in the 1000m and is in line to skate that event in Beijing, too.

Wüst, 35, will tie retired Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen for second place on the career Winter Olympic medals list if she wins two to bring her total to 13. If she wins three (possible if she’s on the team pursuit), she will move one shy of the Winter Olympic record held by retired Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen.

Jorien ter Mors, who won the 1500m in 2014 and the 1000m in 2018, finished fifth and 13th in those events and appears set to miss the team altogether.

Esmee Visser, who won the 2018 Olympic 5000m, missed the team in that event by placing ninth on Thursday.

Carlijn Achtereekte, the 2018 Olympic 3000m champion, placed third on Thursday and looks to have made the team thanks to other skaters qualifying in multiple events.

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

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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.

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

Ilia Malinin
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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.

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