Santos Earns Team USA First Gold Of The Season In Nagoya

by Rebecca Reza

The second World Cup wrapped in Nagoya, Japan with the first gold medal for Team USA. Kristen Santos (Fairfield, Conn.) earned gold in the 1000m final after finishing 4th in the 1500m. Both the Men and Women raced strong, going further in the rounds than at World Cup #1 Beijing as they find their stride this season. Brandon Kim (Fairfax, Va.) reached the A final also in the 1000m, but just missed the podium in 4th place. The Women’s 3000m-relay team continued their momentum reaching the A Finals, after winning the B finals in Beijing.  

It was Santos leading the charge on the final day, winning her first ever World Cup gold with a time of (1.30,013) in a hotly contested race beating the current World Champion Suzanne Schulting (1.30,077) and her teammate, Xandra Velzeboer of the Netherlands with the bronze (1.30,089). 
Corinne Stoddard (Tacoma, Wash.) reached the quarterfinals, racing in the same quarterfinals as Santos, but would finish fourth with a time of (1.30,688). Santos moved up to second in the overall standings for her efforts, with 16400 points behind Schulting with 18000.

After finishing with a bronze in the 1500m last week, Santos just missed repeating a podium spot, finishing 4th (2.34,202) in the A final behind Suzanne Schulting who crossed for gold (2.25,230). She also moved to second in the 1500m overall standings behind Korea’s Yubin Lee, after her bronze performance in Beijing. Stoddard and
Julie Letai (Medfield, Mass.) raced in the ranking finals after coming up short to reach the quarterfinals. Letai won her heat with a time of (2.49,449). Stoddard’s was second with her best time in the ranking final of (2.31,518).  

“Missing out on a medal yesterday was tough,” Santos said after racing concluded Sunday. “I felt strong but got stuck on the outside for the majority of the race and just couldn’t get around. Knowing that I was able to skate on the outside for that many laps and still be in the mix of things was something I had in the back of my mind. 

“Last week in the 1000m, I played it more from the back and just wanted to make it on the podium and ended up with bronze, which I was extremely happy with. Today, I switched my mindset and went into the race racing for gold, and that made a big difference.”

The team continues to make gains in the relays. The Women’s team of
Maame Biney (Reston, Va.), Julie Letai, Corinne Stoddard, and Kristen Santos built on their momentum from Beijing making the A final, but came up short for a medal finishing with a time of (4.11,805). The team from the Netherlands won gold crossing the line in (4.10,805). Notably missing was the team from China, who had been penalized in the quarterfinals and was out of the semis. The Men’s 5000m relay team – Adam Callister (Salt Lake City, UT), Andrew Heo (Warrington, Penn.), Brandon Kim, and Ryan Pivirotto (Ann Arbor, Mich.) – and the mixed relay team – Maame Biney, Clayton DeClemente (Poughkeepsie, NY), Andrew Heo, and Corinne Stoddard – continue to find their stride, but missed advancing to the semi finals in Japan. 

“I think we are working so well together,” Santos added, speaking of the 3000m relay. “We all give it 110%, listen to each others feedback and encourage each other each step of the way. Two 5th places puts us in a great position to hopefully be top 8 overall, and qualify for the Olympics, which is the ultimate goal. Each girl has some really amazing strengths in the relay that we try to use to our advantage.”

The Men’s team made some gains in the 1500m, with all three skaters – Andrew Heo, Brandon Kim, and Ryan Pivirotto – reaching the quarterfinals and Pivirotto reaching the B Finals. Pivirotto finished 3rd in his final with a time of (2.22,856).  Italy’s Yuri Confortola (2.22,547) stunned the crowd in Nagoya after he lapped the field in the A final, finishing nearly 10 seconds ahead of second place (2.31,900), Daeheon Hwang of Korea. 

Kim had a strong showing in the qualifying 1000m heats, winning his semi final after Yoon-Gy Kwak (Korea) was penalized. He went on to his first A final of the season, just missing a podium spot finishing 4th in (1.26,717) behind China’s Ziwei Ren (1.26,297). He moved up to 7th in the overall standings, behind the current leader Pascal Dion of Canada.

"Another successful weekend for our team with Kristen’s first individual World Cup gold medal! Brandon also had a strong showing this weekend in the 1000m where he finished 4th in his first individual A Final. The team is gaining a ton of experience and confidence both individually and in the relay events. The women’s relay had another solid performance with a second top 5 finish in their first A Final this season. Now, we have a 2-week camp in France to rest and reset before heading to the last 2 World Cups of the season which take place in Hungary and Netherlands" said the Short Track Program Director Andréa Do-Duc. 

The team will have a chance to recover for the next couple of weeks before heading to Hungary for World Cup #3 in Debrecen. 

For full results from this weekend’s races, click

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Rebecca Reza | Giving Tree Media