6 takeaways from the short track World Cup season
Before the top short track skaters face off for Olympic gold at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, many top contenders competed at the four ISU World Cup competitions held in October and November. Here's what the results of the prestigious series mean for the Olympic podium.
The South Korean men are ready to bounce back from lackluster Sochi
After winning no medals in the men’s short track events at the 2014 Olympics, the South Korean men are ready to thrill fans on home ice in February. The top names to know are Seo Yi-Ra, the reigning overall world champion; Hwang Dae-Heon, the 18-year-old who won eight individual World Cup medals this fall; and Lim Hyo-Jun, a 2012 Youth Olympic champion who helped the South Korean men to two relay medals and picked up two golds and a bronze individually.
J.R. Celski is still the U.S.’ leading man, and his relay team is the fastest ever
Celski is a 2010 and 2014 Olympian who won two of his three Olympic medals in the men’s relay event. His other Olympic medal came in the 1500m, the same distance in which Celski won a bronze at the Seoul World Cup stop earlier this month. He was the only U.S. skater to win an individual World Cup medal this season.
But the U.S. men found success as a group by winning two medals in the 5000m relay. Their first victory came in Shanghai, where Celski, Keith Carroll Jr., Thomas Hong and John-Henry Krueger not only won relay gold but set a new world record of 6:29:052. At the next World Cup stop, in Seoul, the U.S. men showed it wasn’t a fluke by winning a relay bronze.
U.S. women will be underdogs in PyeongChang
The U.S. women’s short track team will be smaller than the men’s squad at the 2018 Olympics—the U.S. women earned three spots and the men earned the maximum five spots based on their World Cup relay results. No American women earned medals at the four World Cups this fall, so they won’t be considered medal favorites in any events. But the Olympic team could surprise with a mix of veterans and newcomers: Katherine Reutter-Adamek won a silver and bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Jessica Kooreman finished fourth in the 1000m in Sochi, and 17-year-old Maame Biney is ranked 10th in the world in the 500m.
Viktor Ahn will face serious challenges to win ninth Olympic medal
Nearly 12 years ago, Ahn Hyun-Soo dominated the 2006 Torino Olympics by winning three golds and a bronze. Ahn returned to the Olympics in 2014 under the name Viktor Ahn, having changed nationalities from South Korea to Russia. He commanded the competition again, claiming another four medals to bring his career total to eight. He’s currently tied with the U.S.’ Apolo Ohno as the most decorated Olympic short track skater of all time, and will need to win make just one more podium in PyeongChang to have the record to himself.
But based on his World Cup results, a medal is far from guaranteed for 32-year-old Ahn. He didn’t win any individual or relay medals this fall, but did help Russia qualify an Olympic berth in the men’s relay event.
The Liu brothers could make Winter Olympic history for Hungary
Hungary hasn’t won a Winter Olympic medal since 1980, and never in a sport other than figure skating. But with strong performances by Liu Shaolin Sandor and Liu Shaoang this World Cup season, it looks likely that the Hungarian anthem will be heard once again at the Winter Olympics. The brothers—Shaolin is 21 and Shaoang is 19—combined to win seven medals at the 2017 World Cups. Shaolin won four medals, one gold and one silver each in the 500m and 1000m events, and Shaoang picked up bronzes in the 500m and 1000m as well as a silver in the 1500m.
Canada and South Korea take control of women’s podiums
Expect a clash of the titans whenever skaters from Canada and South Korea, currently the top two powerhouses in women’s short track, race against each other. Right now, South Korean skaters seem to have an edge; Choi Min-Jeong and Shim Suk-Hee combined to win eight of 12 available individual gold medals this World Cup season. Three of the remaining four were claimed by Canadian skaters: Marianne St-Gelais won 500m gold in Dordrecht, while Kim Boutin won the 500m and 1000m titles in Shanghai. The only World Cup gold medalist from a different country was Great Britain’s Elise Christie, who is the reigning overall world champion.