- Olympic Zone
Team USA's week that was: Dec. 23-29
Olympic hopefuls spent the holidays continuing to train for Sochi, as a life-time of work and sacrifice culminated in an opportunity to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team. The weekend was headlined by the U.S. Olympic Trials for Nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating. Here's a look at the highlights:
Speed Skating: 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials
Tensions were high at the Utah Olympic Oval as the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials for long track speed skating kicked off over the weekend. It was a great start to the Trials for Olympic veterans, as members of the 2010 team won the first three events. Jilleanne Rookard and Jonathan Kuck solidified their spot on the 2014 Team by winning the 3000m and 5000m, respectively, on the opening night of Trials.
In the 500m, Mitchell Whitmore claimed the top time, but that wasn't what everyone was buzzing about after the race. Vying for his first Olympic berth, Jonathan Garcia turned in his personal best time in the 500m but was disqualified for having not worn a timing device that skaters must wear on their ankle during races. Garcia would redeem himself on Sunday, finishing in fourth and landing in the qualifying position for the Olympics. In the women's 500m, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe continued their speed skating dominance, finishing 1-2.
WATCH: Garcia's mental error costs him a spot in the 500m
Embedded video_content_type: Garcia's mental error costs him a spot in Sochi
Reigning two-time Olympic champion, Shani Davis secured his opportunity to three-peat in the 1000m, winning the event at Trials. Similar to their performance in the 500m, the Richardson and Bowe placed first and second in the women's 1000m, pretty much securing their berth in both events for Sochi.
The winner of the each event at Trials automatically qualifies for the U.S. Olympic Team. A maximum of 10 men and 10 women can make the U.S. Olympic Team. The U.S. has been allotted a certain amount of spots per event. If an athlete qualifies for multiple events, that will free up additional positions for those that have qualified for the allotted spot. The remaining athletes that have finished in one of the top spots are in a qualifying position for the Olympics. The full team is expected to be announced later this week.
Other returning Olympians that qualified to vie for those remaining spots include Tucker Fredricks, Brian Hansen, Lauren Cholewinski and Davis in the 500m. Finishing out the candidates in this event with a third place finish in the women’s race is Sugar Todd, who would be qualifying for her first-ever Olympic Games.
For the 1000m, Todd returns with another third place finish. In a fourth place upset, Kelly Gunther knocked out three-time Olympian Elli Ochowicz, dashing her Olympic dreams. For the men’s 1000m, Garcia (fourth) clings on to a chance for consideration, joining Hansen (second) and Joey Mantia (third).
Anna Ringsred edged out Theresa Cliff-Ryan by half a second for the second place finish in the 3000m, while Emery Lehman and Patrick Meek sit in qualifying position for the 5000m.
The full team is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping: 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials
The 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials for ski jumping took place on Sunday at the 2002 Olympic jumping venue in Park City, Utah. History was made as Jessica Jerome became the first-ever woman ski jumper to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team, beating 2009 World champion Lindsey Van. The reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson didn’t compete at Trials, as she continues to recover from a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee. She hopes to return to jumping in January and is expected to be placed on the Olympic Team.
The International Olympic Committee added the women’s ski jumping event to the Olympics schedule in 2011, after a decade long fight led by Van and Women’s Ski Jumping USA.
WATCH: Jerome makes U.S. Ski Jumping history
Embedded video_content_type: Jessica Jerome punches ticket to Sochi in women's ski jumping
Four years removed from just missing out on the 2010 Vancouver Games, New Hampshire native Nick Fairall won the men’s event on Sunday to qualify for his first Olympics team.
The rest of the U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping Team (up to four men and four women total) are expected to be named by January 22.
There was more history made at the Nordic Combined U.S. Olympic Trials, as 37-year-old Todd Lodwick became the first American to qualify for six Olympic Games. Lodwick held off fellow compatriot Bryan Fletcher in Park City to win the Trials on Saturday. Lodwick was the first of up-to-five men that will be selected to represent the U.S. in Sochi this February.
The remainder of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team will be named on January 22. The six-time Olympian earned his first medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, winning silver in the 4x5km team event.
MORE: Lodwick becomes first six-time U.S. Winter Olympian
Alpine Skiing: FIS World Cup
18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin cemented her spot in a second Olympic event by taking third in the World Cup giant slalom event in Austria. She improved on that in the next day’s slalom event, coming in second place. Austrian skier Marlies Schild took first for the 35th time, earning the record for most ever World Cup wins in the slalom. By landing on the podium in a giant slalom race and slalom race, Shiffrin has qualified to compete in both events in Sochi.
WATCH: Shiffrin rises to the next level
Embedded video_content_type: Mikaela Shiffrin rises to the next level
In the men’s World Cup downhill race in Italy, Bode Miller finished a disappointing 35th. He was almost 2.5 seconds behind winner Aksel Lund Svindal, the current overall World Cup leader and a likely favorite for an Olympic gold medal in the downhill. Lindsey Vonn did not compete this weekend, and U.S. Ski Team coach Alex Hoedlmoser told the AP, “There is no decision yet if, or where she is going to race ahead of the Olympics.” The next World Cup event Vonn could compete in is the downhill in Austria on Jan. 11.
Women's Hockey: U.S. vs. Canada
The heated rivalry between the U.S. and Canadian women's hockey teams is becoming a bit one-sided. After blowing a 2-0 lead in the third period,the U.S. beat their arch rival in a shootout, 3-2. Goalie Jessie Vetter stopped all of Canada's shootout shots for the Americans' third consecutive win against the reigning Olympic champion. The winning streak began after Kevin Dineen was hired as the Canadian coach after Dan Church resigned on December 12.
The Women's and Men's U.S. Olympic Hockey Teams will be announced on January 1 at the NHL Winter Classic in Michigan.
WATCH: U.S. vs. Canada highlights
Embedded video_content_type: United States tops Canada in shootout
Best of Sochi