The 2010 Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremony is four weeks from now so its time to talk about the US speed skaters headed to Vancouver.
The men's long-track team is led by Shani Davis, holder of the current world records at 1000 meters and 1500 meters--he'll be skating in all five distances at the Olympics. In the World Cup meets this season, Shani has dominated and won the 1000 all four times it was competed and four of five times at the 1500, finishing second on one occasion to Chad Hedrick, who returns to the Olympics to skate in three distances. (Shani subsequently went out and broke his own world record in the final 1500 held in December.) Otherwise, the Olympic team is pretty much the same as this season's World Cup team, except that Mitchell Whitmore will skate the fourth 500 meter spot, replacing Brent Aussprung and Matt Plummer from the World Cup team. (Who skates what distances is a little different than the World Cup team, see US Speedskating's News section of its website for details.) Brian Hansen will skate with fellow Illinois native Jonathan Kuck, along with Chad Hedrick and Trevor Marsicano in the Team Pursuit event.
The best possibilities for a gold medal for a skater from Team USA are in the middle distance events. Shani Davis has dominated this season, and barring a surprise should win gold in the 1000 and 1500m events. Chad Hedrick and Trevor Marsicano both had World Cup victories in calendar year 2009, so there is an outside possiblity of a US sweep, perhaps in the 1500m. The 500m event could be won by any one of 8 - 10 skaters from many different countries--for the US, Tucker Fredricks is the best bet, being in fourth place in World Cup points this season. At the 5000 and 10,000 meters, look for Dutch skater Sven Kramer to be the gold medalist with the US skaters an outside shot for a podium finish.
The women's long-track team is pretty much the same as the World Cup team. Jennifer "Miami Ice" Rodriguez, a two-time medalist from the 2002 Games, returns for another Olympics and is joined by eight other skaters from the World Cup team. The US women's team has several skaters with an outside shot for a podium finish but the medals will probably be won by skaters from other nations. Some of the highlights: look for Germany's Jenny Wolf to duel with China's Beixing Wang in the 500m, while at the long-distance events, Czech Republic's swan-like Martina Sablikova will attempt to outlast Germany's Stephanie Beckert.
The short track team features Apolo Ohno for the men attempting to be the most decorated US Winter Olympic athlete of all-time--he's been skating well and won three medals during the World Cup circuit this past fall. For the women, Katherine Reutter has a good chance at a few medals, having won two races (a 1000m in Beijing and a 1500m in Montreal) during the World Cup season with four overall medals won during the four meet series. JR Celski continues to heal after his crash (see the video below). Here's a breakdown of the short track skaters from the USA.
Since this blog is Illinoistocht, I should mention all the Illinois natives on the team: Shani Davis (Chicago), Brian Hansen (Glenview), Jonathan Kuck (Champaign), and Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. (Wheaton) will compete in long-track speed skating while Lana Gehring (Glenview) and Katherine Reutter (Champaign) will compete in Short Track. Nice article on Brian Hansen and Lana Gehring here.
See the preview from US Speedskating's YouTube video channel (below) or at Universal Sports.
Editor - Jim
This blog weighs in on topics such as long-distance skating, the Illinois canals, cycling, and a variety of related (and occasionally not-so-related) topics. I'd like to correspond with others interested in skating the Hennepin and I&M canals.