US speedskaters looking strong for Sochi

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 1, 2014 at 2:41 am •  Published: January 1, 2014

KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Led by Shani Davis, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, the United States is fielding its strongest long-track speedskating team since the 2002 Winter Olympics.

That's when the Americans won three golds and eight medals overall at the Utah Olympic Oval, where the trials to select the team for the Sochi Games conclude on Wednesday.

Davis, Richardson and Bowe have already qualified in multiple events where they will be leading medal contenders at the Olympics in February. Brian Hansen also has the potential to reach the podium.

"My expectations are a little bit higher," Richardson said Tuesday after winning the 1,500 meters.

Davis won the men's 1,500, an event he finished second in at the Turin and Vancouver games. He was timed in 1 minute, 43.20 seconds

"I'm sitting in a good position, pretty strong," he said.

The same could be said of the U.S. long-track skaters.

Joey Mantia and sprinter Tucker Fredricks, who have notched World Cup wins this season, also could medal in their events.

"We have a strong team," Davis said. "I'm sure we're only going to continue to get stronger."

The final Olympians will be announced Wednesday, when one berth is available in both the women's 5,000 and the men's 10,000.

Jilleanne Rookard, already on the Olympic team, is the favorite for the 5,000. Jonathan Kuck, also on the team, is the leading contender in the men's longest race.

Olympic hopeful Theresa Cliff-Ryan, injured in a training accident, will be re-evaluated by a doctor on Wednesday and may compete in the 5,000.

Cliff-Ryan sustained a concussion and several broken teeth when clipped from behind by a crashing skater while standing on the infield on Monday during an off day in the competition.

"If she gets cleared then I think she'll go," her coach, Matt Kooreman, said. "She has intention to race. It's just (dependent on) how she feels."

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