Eight spots on the U.S. Olympic Team are on the line as the fastest in American short track speedskating gather in Kearns, Utah, this weekend for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The U.S. has earned quota spots for five men and three women to represent Team USA in PyeongChang this February based on results from four world cup events earlier this year. Who exactly will occupy those spots on the Olympic starting line will be settled this weekend at the Utah Olympic Oval.
Three American women will compete in the Olympic 1,500-meter, and two in each the 500 and 1,000. The men will be represented by three athletes in the 500 and 1,500, two in the 1,000 and a four-man team in the 5,000-meter relay, where the Americans set a new world record last month at a world cup in Shanghai.
Two finals are competed for each of the three distances this week, and athletes earn points based on their two placements in each distance. They are then selected to the team based on their points total per distance and, potentially, based on their overall classification as well (their total points earned across all three distances).
Finals in the 1,500-meter will be conducted on Friday, followed by the 500- and 1,000-meter on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The entire event will be broadcast live on NBCOlympics.com and will appear on TV on NBC Sports Network from 8:30 to 10 p.m. ET Friday, and on NBC Saturday from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m., and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
As the clock ticks down to the trials, here are 10 speedskating hopefuls to watch:
Just 17 years old, Biney is already being heralded as the future of U.S. women’s short track. The Ghana native, who came to the U.S. at age 5, earned that mantle after taking bronze in the 500-meter at the 2017 junior world championships and finishing as the top qualifier to this year’s world cup squad ahead of a trio of Olympians. Biney began as a figure skater but switched to speedskating after being told she skated too quickly for the other discipline. Twelve years on, the fast pace of the sport remains appealing, especially in the 500-meter, Biney’s favorite event.
Keith Carroll Jr.
Carroll earned his first world cup win with the U.S. men’s 5,000-meter relay squad as they set a surprise world record at the Shanghai World Cup last month in China. It was a big moment for the 26-year-old, who represented the Team USA at five inline skating world championships but gave up the sport to chase his Olympic dream on ice. In his three world championships appearances, Carroll’s best results have come as a member of the 5,000-meter relay team, a trend he’d love to continue this winter in South Korea.
The only person in the 16-man field with Olympic experience, the 27-year-old Celski is a three-time Olympic medalist, having won a silver medal with the 5,000-meter relay team in Sochi in 2014, as well as bronze medals in the 5,000 relay and the 1,500 in Vancouver in 2010. Celski also has a handful of medals from world championships, including gold in the 5,000 relay from 2009 and silver in the 500-meter in 2014. More recently, he distinguished himself by anchoring the relay team during its world record run last month in China.
A member of the team that won a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter relay at the Vancouver Games in 2010, Gehring missed the 2014 Olympic team and then switched to long track speedskating. After two seasons on the 400-meter track, she returned to the short track world cup circuit this year. So far the five-time world championships medalist has enjoyed a strong second wind, setting personal bests in the 500 and 1,000 already this season.
Hong’s roots in the sport run deep — his mother went into labor with him while at a speedskating rink in Seoul — but it’s his own ambition that pushes him forward. The up-and-coming 20-year-old acknowledges that it would be “a huge honor” to return to the country of his birth to compete at the Olympic Winter Games as a member of Team USA, and stands in good stead of achieving that goal after helping the U.S. men set the world record in the 5,000-meter relay at the Shanghai World Cup. He followed up with a bronze medal in the 5,000 relay at the world cup in Seoul a week later, his last major competition before the Olympic trials. Hong competed at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012.
Fourth in the 1,000-meter at the 2014 Sochi Games and sixth in the 1,500, Kooreman knows about the glory of making it to the Olympics as well as the frustration of finishing just off the podium. A skater almost from the time she could walk, she once dominated the world of inline skating, winning 16 world championships titles before switching to ice in her 20s. The veteran of the U.S. team at 34, she is still at the top of her game, evidenced by her personal best in the 500-meter this past August in Utah.
Like teammate Hong, Krueger also has a special connection to South Korea: the 22-year-old lived and trained in Seoul, where he raced for the Korean National Sport University. The Olympic Oval in Kearns has been good to him, too: It was there in 2014 that he won his first and second individual world cup title, a 500-meter gold in 2014. In addition to being part of the world record team in Shanghai, he set a new personal best in the 1,000 in China, bolstering his case for Olympic inclusion four years after a bout of swine flu forced him to withdraw from the 2014 Olympic trials.
After a successful junior career, Pivirotto has been steadily making his mark on the national team. This year, he was named to the U.S. world cup team, joining the likes of Carroll, Celski, Hong and Krueger on the international circuit, and he set a personal best in the 1,500 at the Seoul World Cup. Kearns will be the second Olympic trials for the Ann Arbor, Michigan, native, who also participated in 2014.
After winning an Olympic silver medal in the 1,000-meter and bronze medal in the 3,000-meter relay from the Vancouver Games, Reutter-Adamek became the first American woman since Bonnie Blair in 1986 to win a short track world title, which she did by winning the 1,500 in 2011. Spurred by injuries and a desire to spend more time with her family, she retired in 2013 but returned to the sport three years later with the intention of making a run for PyeongChang. So far, so good for the 29-year-old who trains in Kearns: She earned a spot on the U.S. world cup team last season and earlier this year, winning the qualifier in the 1,000.
Shin competed at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, skating in the mixed team relay. Nearly two years on, an older and more experienced Shin will take the ice at her first U.S. Olympic Team Trials. The petite 19-year-old, 13th overall at the 2016 junior world championships, has been praised for her intuitive feel for the ice. She’s especially comfortable in the 1,500-meter, her best distance.