Kristen Santos needed just two days at U.S. Short Track Olympic Trials to punch her ticket to the 2022 Winter Games.
The 27-year-old from Fairfield, Connecticut, won the women’s 1500m event for the second consecutive night at the Utah Olympic Oval to snag the first of seven spots on the U.S. Olympic Team for short track speed skating. She also won the 500m event Friday to help her cause.
Santos will compete on her first Olympic team in February. In 2018, she finished fourth overall at U.S. Trials, one spot short of qualifying for PyeongChang. In the time since, though, she has emerged as the United States’ top individual medal threat in short track for either gender.
“To come out here and give it everything and finally make my first Olympic team is really important to me,” Santos said while fighting back tears. “I really just tried to focus on myself in every race. I think in the past I get really caught up in other people and what they’re doing, so just focusing on myself has made a big difference.”
Santos is the only American to score a podium finish on the World Cup circuit this winter, having done so three times – including capturing the first win by an American woman in nine years. Those podiums have come in both the 1000m and 1500m events. The versatile Santos also lowered her American record in the 500m Friday at U.S. Trials, despite grappling with an equipment issue giving her pain in her ankle.
Four spots on the U.S. Short Track Olympic Team for female athletes and two for male athletes remain at stake at Trials, to be officially decided Sunday afternoon. Maame Biney, the only returning Olympian at Trials, is on track to qualify for her second Winter Olympics with a good performance Sunday. Meanwhile, three men, Ryan Pivirotto, Brandon Kim and Andrew Heo will jostle for two spots on the final day. Heo captured a surprise victory in the men’s 1500m on Saturday to vault himself into the running.