Sports

Speed Skating at Sochi

Although the U.S. Winter Olympics team is an all-around top contender, there is one sport in which we claim to be the most successful. Throughout the years, U.S. speed skating has earned 85 Olympic medals, the most out of any other winter Olympic sport. That being said, 2014 marks a new era for the 25 men and women heading to Sochi for the upcoming Games.

Speed skating is broken into two types: short track and long track. A short track oval is about 111m in length, and can fit inside a standard hockey rink. A long track oval is roughly 400m long and is similar in size to a running track. To give you a better perspective, two hockey rinks can fit into a long track oval.

Along with the track length, each type of speed skating comes with its own procedure. Short track is much more chaotic because it is conducted as a race between the skaters presently on the oval. On the other hand, the idea behind long track is to race against the clock, rather than each other. This means that the skaters compete in separate legs, and not necessarily all at once. In this way, long track speed skaters are competing against every speed skater in the Games, rather than short track speed skaters who only have to defeat the skaters in their elimination rounds.

With the recent retirement of a vital teammate, Sochi will be the first Olympics in 12 years that will not include Apolo Anton Ohno—the most decorated U.S. winter Olympian in history. Not only that, but the short track team welcomes a new coach this year, making this the debut of Guy Thibault. However, it doesn’t look like the team is taking it too harshly, as it welcomes back several Olympic medalists and introduces promising newcomers.

With the absence of Apolo Ohno, two-time Olympic bronze medalist J.R. Celski has become the new anchor for the short track team’s success. Alongside him, keep an eye out for newcomers Chris Creveling and Eddy Alvarez. Creveling finished first in one of the 1000m finals to qualify for the Games, while Alvarez finished second in each distance during the Olympic trials. As for the women, newcomers Jessica Smith and Emily Scott are definitely athletes to watch in these upcoming Games. Smith swept the trials, taking first in each distance, while Scott finished second.

When it comes to the long track team, there is one name that echoes in the stands, and that is four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis. This year, Davis will compete for his third gold medal in the 1000m race. If successful, it would make him the first American male to win three consecutive golds in the same event. Heather Richardson (who is currently the world sprint champion and dominated the trials winning the 500m, 1000m, and 1500m) and Brittany Bowe (who finished second behind Richardson in the same races) are also expected to lead the scores for women’s long track.

Although the U.S. team appears promising, they’ll have to keep an eye out for two strong skaters from Holland who already hold numerous Olympic medals in their repertoire. Long track skaters Sven Kramer and Ireen Wüst, with four Olympic medals and two gold medals, respectively, are certainly strong competitors who will be leading their team.

As the U.S. team remains stronger than ever, the Chinese team recently took a huge hit to its roster. In a shocking turn of events, Wang Meng (China’s top winter Olympian), fractured her ankle in two places and cannot compete in Sochi.

Without a doubt, speed skating is one of the most fast-paced and suspenseful sports to watch in the Winter Olympics. Although the team is made up of mostly newcomers, including a new coach, their success at the Olympic trials showed everyone that they are still a force with which to be reckoned.

By: Madelyn Vetrano

A part of the SJC Talon Winter Olympics 2014 Series

Final Results:

US Speed skating has not been living up to expectations as they haven’t even stepped on the podium for any of their races, despite either being favprites or defending their titles. Some say it has to do with the difference in ice quality from where they trained and others blame faulty suits for lack or aerodynamics. Whatever it is, the US has a a lot of make up for in the next week.

Short Track:

Men’s 1000M: Viktor Ahn (RUS),  Vladimir Grigorev (RUS), Sjinkie Knegt (NED) Hamelin crashed taking down Alvarez. Later on, Celsi experienced a crash on his own, taking a chance of a US medal with him as Creveling didn’t qualify past quarter finals.

Men’s 1500M: Charles Hamelin (CAN), Tianyu Han (CHN), Viktor Ahn (RUS)

Women’s  500M: Jianrou Li (CHN) (keeping the Olympic title for China after Wang Meng had to drop out due to injury) Arianna Fontana (ITA), Seung-Hi Park (KOR)

Women’s 1500M: Yang Zhou (CHN) (defended title), Suk-Hee Shim (KOR). Arianna Fontana (ITA)

Long Track:

Men’s 500M Dutch sweep with two brothers medaling. Michel Mulder, Jan Smeekens, Ronald Mulder. At first, they announced Smeekens as the gold medalists, however after a few seconds, times were rechecked and it was revealed that Michel Mulder indeed won gold.

Men’s 1000M Shani Davis loses out of his 3rd consecutive gold in 1000M after finishing 8th. Stefan Groothuis (NED), Denny Morrison (CAN), Michel Mulder (NED)

Men’s 1500M: Zbigniew Brodka (POL), Koen Verweij (NED), Denny Morrison (CAN)

Men’s 5000M: Sven Kramer (NED), Jan Blokhuijsen (NED), Jorrit Bergsma (Ned) another Dutch sweep

Despite, Richardson and Bowe being favorites in the speed skating for 500M, 1000M, 15000 races, neither of them even got on the podium for 500M or 1500M

Women’s 500M: Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR), Olga Fatkulina (RUS), Margot Boer (NED)

Women’s 1000M: Hong Zhang (CHN), Ireen Wuest (NED), Margot Boer (NED)

Women’s 3000M: Ireen Wuest (NED), Martina Sablikova (CZE), Olga Graf (RUS)

 

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