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U.S. Speedskaters Dazzle On Night One Of Short Track Olympic Team Trials

By Katie Grunik | Dec. 18, 2021, 1:16 a.m. (ET)

Kristen Santos competes at 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Short Track Speedskating on Dec. 17, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

 

SALT LAKE CITY – Kristen Santos stole the show on Friday night at the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Short Track in Salt Lake City. 

She and 30 other short track speedskaters took the ice at the famed Utah Olympic Oval in the first finals of both the 500 meters and 1,500 meters. Night one was all about qualifying points, where athletes with the highest cumulative totals look to book a ticket to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2020. 

Kristen Santos emerged a clear leader, locking up wins in both the women’s 1,500 and the 500. In the women’s 1,500 A final, Santos earned the top spot with 2:26:89 followed by Corinne Stoddard in second with 2:27:02 and Julie Letai in third with 2:28:56. Santos said she focused on being confident in herself throughout night one of racing. 

“Coming out here and winning both distances is really exciting,” Santos said. “…it definitely helps a lot. I think I’m sitting pretty well now to make the team hopefully so I’m just going to keep doing the same thing; focusing on myself and cheering on my teammates too because they’re all doing great as well.”

Santos came into Olympic Trials as a favorite with a strong showing across the 2021 world cup circuit. She said she was more relaxed competing on the international stage than in the U.S., and she’s using what she learned about herself as a skater to perform her best at Olympic Trials. 

“It definitely gives me confidence,” Santos said. “I’ve learned I can carry speed for longer and staying more relaxed especially in early rounds helps me conserve my energy for finals. I think in the past I maybe freaked out more in early rounds and would waste energy, get DQ-ed and screw myself over in that way. So I’m just trying to conserve as much energy [as I can] so I can give it my all at the end” 

Maame Biney, a three-time national champion and the only returning female Olympian, threw down a couple speedy 500s to finish less than a second behind Santos. Corinne Stoddard came third with 43.00. 

While Santos excels in the 1,500, Biney dominates at the 500, the shortest of the short track races. The pair will get their first chance to qualify for the Games in the 1,500-meter final on Saturday night. 

“I think it’ll be a little more nerve-racking racing the rest of the weekend,” Santos said. “Knowing that the 1,500 tomorrow could potentially secure a spot for me or someone else, I think I just have to focus on one race at a time.” 

Brandon Kim competes in the 500-meter A final at 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Short Track Speedskating on Dec. 17, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

Experience Prevails in a Close Men’s Field

The men’s races kicked off with fireworks from Ryan Pivirotto in the 1,500-meter A final. He won in 2:22:76 followed closely behind by Andrew Heo in 2:22:80. Clayton DeClemente finished third in 2:23:05. 

Pivirotto is the only returning Olympian vying for a spot on the Beijing 2022 roster. With two men’s Olympic spots on the line at the end of weekend, his experience could give him an edge on the younger competitors. 

“I’m a veteran on the team,” said Pivirotto. “I’ve been on the world circuit for eight years now, so just all that experience has helped me out in figuring out what to do in what situation because its short track. Anything can happen at any time, and you have to switch up your thought process super fast.” 

The tough men’s field provided an exciting race in the 500 as well. Brandon Kim outskated Pivirotto 41:33 to 41:46 to take the A final win. Andrew Heo took third in 41:52. After a fall knocked Kim out contention for top spot in the 1,500, he said it felt good to walk away with the win in the 500. 

“It definitely gives me some confidence doing well in the [500], especially after falling in the 1500,” Kim said. “Getting first in the [500] is a good way to start the weekend, and I’m looking to do well the next few days.”

Kim, a Virginia native, has grown in the last four years since finished 12th at the 2018 Olympic Trials. After several repeat World Junior Team appearances and national championships, he broke onto the senior world cup team in the 2018-19 season. Coming into the 2022 Olympic Trials, he’s a favorite for one of two men’s roster spots. 

“Last time [at Olympic Trials], I was the youngest competitor so now I’m one of the top guys,” Kim said. “It’s definitely really different. There’s a lot more pressure on me now so I’m just trying to do my best.” 

Both Kim and Pivirotto are approaching the Olympic Trials weekend with the same mindset – take it one race at a time. 

“You can’t think about stuff to far ahead or else you lose yourself so taking it race by race, lap by lap is the best way to do it,” Pivirotto said. 

“I’m just trying to take it one race at a time,” Kim said. “Just trying to feel out the ice, feel out my blades, get comfortable racing and I’m not trying to let that worry me too much.”

While athletes did not directly qualify from Friday’s races, they secured crucial points bringing them closed to their Olympic dreams.

Action continues Saturday with the first of two 1,000-meter finals and the last 1,500-meter final. The winner of the women’s 1,500 has the potential to be the first athlete named to the short track speedskating Olympic team. The full team will be announced Sunday after the final day of racing.

 

Highlights from Night One of 2022 Short Track Speedskating U.S. Olympic Trials

Women's 500 Meter B Final | Short Track Speedskating U.S. Olympic Team Trials 2022
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12/18/2021
Women's 500 Meter A Final | Short Track Speedskating U.S. Olympic Team Trials 2022
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12/18/2021
Men's 1,500 A Final | Short Track Speedskating U.S. Olympic Team Trials 2022
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12/18/2021
Men's 500 Meter A Final | Short Track Speedskating U.S. Olympic Team Trials 2022
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12/18/2021

Katie Grunik

Katie Grunik is a digital content creator for TeamUSA.org. She covered the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and currently serves as the digital content coordinator for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

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