Short Track Speed Skating

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Maame Biney defends world junior 500m title

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Maame Biney got an early birthday present.

The 2018 Olympian defended her title in the 500m at the World Junior Championships this past weekend in Montreal, Quebec. In the quarterfinal round, she set a junior world record with a time of 43.212.

“I love it,” Biney said of her win, according to U.S. Speedskating. “I felt really good and skated really well. It’s a really good birthday gift, because my birthday is in two days.” (She turned 19 on January 28).

“I know where I am and I know I can get better,” she said. “This is just a representation of what can happen in the future.”

Biney, who was born in Ghana and raised in Virginia by a single father, had her breakthrough moment at the World Junior Championships in 2017, when she won bronze in the 500m. The bubbly teenager had a dominant showing at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 500m to earn a spot on her first Olympic team, becoming the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic short track team. Her best finish in South Korea was 14th in the 500m.

Since the Olympics, Biney graduated high school and started college at the University of Utah.

Biney will compete in the fifth World Cup of the 2018-19 season this weekend in Dresden, Germany.

 

John-Henry Krueger, Maame Biney back for short track worlds; schedule

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Olympic medalists John-Henry Krueger and J.R. Celski and world junior champion Maame Biney headline the U.S. team for the world short track speed skating championships, which begin Friday in Montreal.

Qualifying heats are Friday, with finals Saturday (1500m, 500m) and Sunday (1000m, 3000m, relays).

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air same-day coverage of Saturday’s competition at 8:30 p.m. ET and Sunday’s competition at 12 a.m. ET.

A full race schedule is here.

The U.S. last earned world champs medals in 2014 (Celski, Jessica Kooreman) but rides the momentum of Krueger’s silver (the first individual U.S. Olympic speed skating medal since 2010) and Biney’s world junior title (first-ever by a U.S. woman in any short track event) in the 500m on March 3.

Biney, 18, made the 500m quarterfinals in PyeongChang and was eliminated in the first round of the 1500m.

Celski, who owns three Olympic medals between 2010 and 2014, will look to rebound after not making a final in PyeongChang.

The international men’s field will rival the Olympics, given the addition of Viktor Ahn, the six-time Olympic champion left off the list of Russians invited to PyeongChang by the International Olympic Committee.

Italian Arianna Fontana, the most decorated short track skater in PyeongChang with a medal of every color, will compete only in the relay in Montreal due to emotional exhaustion, according to her social media.

Brit Elise Christie, the 2017 World overall champion, is out of the championships altogether after suffering ankle ligament damage in a crash at the Olympics.

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MORE: Best short track moments from PyeongChang

World Short Track Speed Skating Championships Schedule

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Qualifying
Saturday 1:30-5:20 p.m. 1500m, 500m, relay semis Olympic Channel (8:30 p.m.)
Sunday 1-3:45 p.m. 1000m, 3000m, relay finals Olympic Channel (12 a.m.)

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

Arianna Fontana
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Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.