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What To Watch For At This Weekend's Short Track Trials

By Chrös McDougall | Dec. 17, 2021, 12:48 p.m. (ET)

Maame Biney poses at a Team USA Beijing 2022 Olympic shoot on Sept. 12, 2021 in Irvine, Calif.


The top American short track speedskaters will be on display Friday through Sunday at the Utah Olympic Oval just south of Salt Lake City, where five women and two men will earn their berths to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

If you’re tuning in expecting to see Apolo Anton Ohno in all his glory — congratulations, you’re officially old.

The most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian retired after the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010, but the current generation brings plenty of new reasons to tune in.

In a switch from recent quads, it’s the U.S. women leading the charge into the Winter Games, thanks in large part to veterans Kristen Santos and Maame Biney. The men, meanwhile, are in a period of transition after three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski hung up his skates and 2018 medalist John-Henry Krueger began competing for Hungary.

As a result, the women have qualified a relay team for the first time since 2010, while the men failed to qualify in the relay for the first time since 1992. However, the men will still have an opportunity to race in a relay in Beijing thanks to the new mixed relay event that features two men and two women.

In Utah, 15 women and 16 men will each race twice at the three individual distances — 500 meters, 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters.

For the women, the combined winner at each distance will earn an Olympic berth, and if someone wins two distances then the second-place finishers will be considered. The remaining spots will be awarded based on overall rankings, though one could go to a relay specialist.

On the men’s side, winners from each distance will be considered.

Though some skaters come into the weekend with more momentum, in the unpredictable world of short track nothing is ever guaranteed.

Here’s a look at three storylines to keep an eye on.

Ryan Pivirotto (middle) competes in the men's 1,000-meter heats at a world cup short track test event for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Oct. 22, 2021 in Beijing.


Santos And Biney Lead The Way

Maame Biney is the only returning Olympian on the women’s side, while Kristen Santos fell just short of making the team after being sliced by another skater’s blade just weeks ahead of the Olympic Trials. Now the two veterans should be favorites to go to Beijing together.

Santos has been Team USA’s top short track skater in recent years, and especially this season so far. The 27-year-old from Fairfield, Connecticut, has reached the world cup podium three times so far and won once. Those podiums all came at the 1,000- or 1,500-meter distances, but she’s got the moves at 500 too, having finished fourth at last year’s world championships.

Biney made a name for herself in 2018 when she became the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic speedskating team. The Ghana-born, Reston, Virginia-raised skater went on to win a junior world title one year later in her signature 500-meter event. Now 21, she’s ranked 21st in the world at that distance.

Filling Out The Women’s Team

If Santos and Biney are favorites to make the team, Corrine Stoddard should be right in the mix with them. The latest short track star from the Pacific Northwest, Stoddard, 20, ranks among the top-22 in the world in all three distances.

After those three, the field looks more wide open. One name to watch, though, is Julie Letai. The 21-year-old from Medfield, Massachusetts, is the only other American to rank among the top 50 this season — doing so in the 500 and 1,500 — and, notably, she has plenty of experience in the relays, having races in that event at two junior world championships and one senior worlds. The last time the U.S. women qualified a relay in 2010, they won a bronze medal. 

Three Men Stand Out

Ryan Pivirotto got oh-so-close to racing in the Olympics in 2018, being named to Team USA and traveling to PyeongChang before having to watch the actual races from the stands as the alternate in the men’s relay and 1,000-meter.

Now 26, Pivirotto, who is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is off to a solid start this season, ranking among the top 35 at all three distances.

He’ll have plenty of competition from Brandon Kim and Andrew Heo, though.

Kim looks to be in the pole position for the U.S. men after having swept all three distances at this year’s national championships. A native of Fairfax, Virginia, the 20-year-old Kim is also the top American so far in the world cup, ranking 29th overall but 13th in the 1,000 and 20th in the 500.

Heo, of Warrington, Pennsylvania, could play the spoiler on the men’s side. The 20-year-old currently sits third among Americans in the world cup standings for the 1,000 and 1,500, but not by much. In his world championships debut last season, Heo raced all three distances and was 12th in the 1,500.


Chrös McDougall

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic Movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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