The recent Olympics have shown that the pool of nations vying for medals in short track speed skating is deeper than the traditional powers of South Korea, China, the United States and Canada.
The just ended World Cup season, the best indicator of the prospects for Olympic medals, was further proof of this.
The top six skaters in the individual Olympic events – men and women 500m, 1000m and 1500m – hail from six different countries.
The star continues to be the Dutch Suzanne Schulting, who was the only top-four man or woman in all three distances this season.
Schulting, who in 2018 became the first Dutch Olympic short track champion (the country has 42 long track medals), won all gold medals at the world championships in March. The caveat was then that the competition did not include any skater from China or South Korea, nor Canada’s top skater, Kim Boutin.
But Schulting swept all distances again, this time against several of the best in the world, in the penultimate World Cup stop two weeks ago. Dutch dominance in long track speed skating is put to the test this season, so Schulting could be the Netherlands’ most successful Olympian in Beijing.
The other women in the lead are veterans: Italian Arianna Fontana, who shares the Olympic short track record of eight medals, has finished first or second every 500m this season.
And the newcomers: Lee yu bin, a relay-only skater in PyeongChang and at the world championships, was the only South Korean woman to win multiple races this fall. Lee, however, finished fourth overall at South Korea’s Olympic Trials in May, which puts her in line again for the relay-only Olympics.
However, the quadruple Olympic medalist Shim Suk-Hee was withdrawn from the national team for the entire World Cup season, potentially opening an Olympic spot. Shim, who won the Olympic trials, was investigated earlier this fall after a reported text message exchange suggesting she may have intentionally tripped another star. Choi Min Jeong during the 2018 Olympics.
Kristen santos achieved three individual podiums this season, giving the United States hope of winning their first women’s Olympic short track medal since 2010. Santos finished fourth overall at the 2018 Olympic trials, where three women made the team . A month before tryouts, she had to have surgery after another skater sliced ââoff her hand and wrist at a World Cup.
Santos can qualify for his first Olympics at trials in two weeks in Utah.
The top-ranked men in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m are all looking for their first individual Olympic medal.
The men’s 500m is perhaps one of the most anticipated events in all sports at the Olympics, as the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder is Wu dajing of the host country.
However, the Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor beat Wu in the World Cup. Liu, born in Budapest to a Hungarian mother and a Chinese father, was the mainstay of a relay team in PyeongChang that won Hungary’s first Olympic winter gold medal.
Canadian Pascal Dion, whose best individual result at the Olympic or World Championships is 10th, topped the 1000m standings this season. South Korean Hwang Dae-Heon won two of the four races, but missed one. Hwang won the overall title at the Olympic Trials in South Korea.
Ren ziwei, a 2018 Olympic relay silver medalist for China, topped the 1,500m standings.
The American men have had no podiums this season, despite being a 2018 Olympic silver medalist John Henry-Krueger got two second places for Hungary. Krueger changed nationality after PyeongChang, citing lack of US financial support
Unless the top-ranked nations relinquish their spots, the United States will not be part of the men’s Olympic relay for the first time since the Olympic short track debut in 1992.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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