November is a time of transition. The final autumn leaves drifting to the ground and the crispness in the air are reminders that summer has departed and winter is rounding the corner.
It also is a time of change for the athletes of Team USA. With the stellar achievements of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games now warm memories, many athletes in summer sports pause to reflect on their accomplishments before moving into off-season training mode, while those who compete in winter sports dial into competitive mode as they begin to display and hone their skills in the final full season before the 23rd Olympic Winter Games opens 15 months from now in PyeongChang, South Korea.
With that in mind, here’s a look at eight reasons why we can look forward to an exciting November for Team USA.
1) Will Returning Veterans Bring Short Track Speedskating A Medal Haul?
After bringing home just one world cup medal last season, U.S. short track speedskating may find its future in its past as the world cup season opens Nov. 4-6 in Calgary, Alberta, with the second stop the following weekend in Salt Lake City. Back on the ice is two-time Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter, who came out of a three-year retirement to make the squad. She joins a roster that includes nine veterans of the 2015-16 world cup circuit as well as three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski, who returns to world cup competition for the first time since fall 2015. Jessica Kooreman, a member of the 2014 Olympic team, hopes to build on a 10th-place finish in the 1,500-meter at the 2016 world championships, and 2016 Youth Olympian April Shin will make her world cup return after debuting at the Dresden world cup in February.
2) Just How Grand Will The U.S. Be In Figure Skating’s Grand Prix?
Last season, U.S. figure skaters brought home a total of 15 grand prix medals and earned six entries in the Grand Prix Final, where they earned one more medal. As routines are further perfected with an eye toward PyeongChang, the question becomes which American skaters will establish themselves as favorites for the Olympic year. Strong out of the blocks with seven medals at Skate America to open the series, the U.S. already has collected eight medals after two meets and is on track to match or better its performance last season. The most recent medal, a silver, came from two-time world championship ice dance medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates at last weekend’s Skate Canada.
November sees the schedule ramp up, with a contest every weekend. Chock and Bates will be joined fellow ice dancers Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit, men’s skater Max Aaron and ladies’ competitor Courtney Hicks at the Rostelecom Cup Nov. 4-6 in Moscow. The series continues with he Trophée de France Nov. 11-13 in Paris; the Cup of China Nov. 18-20 in Beijing; and the NHK Trophy Nov. 25-27 in Sapporo, Japan. The Grand Prix Final will be held Dec. 8-11 in Marseilles, France.
3) See Gwen Run/Tatyana Goes For Four
After taking Olympic gold and firmly establishing herself as the most dominant woman in triathlon, Gwen Jorgensen will take her fearsome running talents to New York City this month, but not for another triathlon. Instead, on Nov. 6 she will be trying her hand (feet?) at the New York City Marathon. It will mark the first time the two-time triathlon world champion will run a marathon, but she already has tested herself in a distance race, placing third last month at the USA Track & Field 10-Mile Championships.
Meanwhile, seven-time Paralympic champion Tatyana McFadden seeks her fourth consecutive New York City Marathon title, which would lock down her fourth straight Grand Slam. After beginning her career in sprint events, McFadden entered the 2009 Chicago Marathon on a lark and won the race in a convincing fashion. Four years later she became the first person – able-bodied or otherwise – to win four major marathons (Chicago, Boston, London and New York City) in the same year.
4) Men’s Soccer Opens The Hex
While the winter sport athletes have their sights set on February 2018 and PyeongChang, the U.S. men’s soccer team is focused on that summer and the FIFA World Cup, which will be hosted by Russia. After winning their group in the semifinal round of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying (aka the Hexagonal, or “Hex”), the Americans now open the semifinal stage against regional rival Mexico Nov. 11 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, the site of many legendary battles between the two sides. The encounter will mark the fifth consecutive World Cup qualifying cycle that Team USA and “El Tri” will play in the home stadium of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. With 2-0 shutout results by the Americans in the previous four qualifying cycles, “Dos a Cero” has become the rallying cry of the U.S. faithful.
5) Will Shiffrin Continue Her World Cup Roll?
After opening the 2016-17 with a second-place giant slalom finish in Soelden, Austria, Mikaala Shiffrin will have two opportunities to return to the top step of the podium as world cup action heats up with a pair of races this month. First up is a the slalom season opener Nov. 12 in Levi, Finland, followed by a string of tech races Nov. 26-27 in Killington, Vermont. The only thing that kept Shiffrin from winning her fourth consecutive slalom world cup season title last earlier this year was a right knee injury that forced her to the sidelines for half the season. She still placed fourth in the overall standings after winning each of the five races she entered. Last month’s silver in Soelden matched her result there last season, perhaps a harbinger of good things to come this season as the 21-year-old positions herself as a top contender heading toward PyeongChang.
6) USA Swimming’s Olympic Medalists Take On Big Ten Stars
Swimming is bridging from international competition to the collegiate side, a transition that will be highlighted Nov. 12-13 at the USA College Challenge. Members of USA Swimming’s National Team will face stars of the Big Ten Conference in a meet at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis. Eight Olympic medalists will highlight the field, including eight Rio medalists Lilly King, Cody Miller, Blake Pieroni, Cierra Runge, Tom Shields, Leah Smith, Amanda Weir and Kelsi Worrell. Olympians Jacob Pebley and Jordan Wilimovsky also will compete. Four Olympians currently compete at Big Ten schools and will race for the conference squad: King and Pieroni (Indiana), Runge (Wisconsin) and Wilimovsky (Northwestern). Schools from the Big Ten have produced some of the most recognizable names in Olympic swimming history, including Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, Mike Barrowman and Matt Grevers.
7) Swimming Salutes Its Stars
Swimming’s elite will gather in New York City on Monday, Nov. 21, to salute their stars at the 13th Annual Golden Goggles Award. The black-tie gala will honor members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team and benefits the USA Swimming Foundation. NBC’s Bob Costas will serve as the master of ceremonies, marking the fourth time he will fill the role at a Golden Goggles event. Fans can vote here for their favorite nominees in eight different categories. The greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, led the nominations with five, while Maya DiRado, Anthony Ervin, Katie Ledecky and Ryan Murphy each received three.
8) Lugers Hope To Leverage Last Season’s Success
The 2015-16 season was a high watermark for USA Luge, as U.S. sliders raked in an unprecedented 19 world cup medals, led by 2014 Olympians Summer Britcher (three golds, two bronzes) and Erin Hamlin (one gold, three silvers) on the women’s side and two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, who took third overall in the men’s division with two golds, two silvers and a bronze medal. After such a productive season, which included the first-ever one-two finish by U.S. men in a world cup event (Mazdzer and Tucker West, respectively, at Lake Placid, New York), it’s no surprise that American lugers are eager to get the season started. A dominating performance in early October pre-season racing in Lillehammer ratcheted the excitement even more as Hamlin and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman took gold and West and Raychel Germaine each grabbed silver.
The world cup season opens Nov. 26-27 in Winterberg, Germany, then shifts to North America for the month of December with stops Dec. 2-3 in Lake Placid, New York; Dec. 9-10 in Whistler, British Columbia; and Dec. 16-17 in Park City, Utah.