Three days of racing at the U.S. Short Track Olympic Trials produced six future first-time Olympians and one athlete making an emotional return to the Winter Games.
Maame Biney, the only athlete skating at Trials hoping to qualify for a second Olympic appearance, won the 500m A final Sunday to confirm her place on Team USA for 2022.
Biney will be joined by Kristen Santos – who secured qualification on Saturday – along with Corinne Stoddard, Julie Letai and Eunice Lee on the women’s side. Ryan Pivirotto and Andrew Heo will represent the United States in men’s competition.
Lee and Heo were surprise qualifiers – but for different reasons. Lee, 17, had never competed for or trained with the national team. She emerged from the wide-open competition for the fifth spot on the women’s team, as all four members of the U.S. World Cup team this fall secured qualification.
The U.S. men failed to qualify a relay for 2022, leaving just two individual spots to fill at Trials. Brandon Kim, the top-ranked U.S. athlete in the world at No. 29 and the favorite to claim a spot on the team, wrapped up a nightmare Trials with crashes in both of Sunday’s finals. He crashed out on the last lap of the 1000m race attempting to overtake Heo, who won the heat to punch his ticket to the Winter Games. Heo and Pivirotto are the two next-highest-ranked American men after Kim.
SEE MORE: Andrew Heo snags unlikely Olympic spot with 1000m win
But the emotional moment of the night came moments after Biney secured her berth, triggering a release of tears at the culmination of a difficult quadrennial for the Ghanaian-born 21-year-old. “It’s been a tough couple of years. I’ve worked so hard and been so tough,” she said afterward. At one point in the lead-up to the 2022 Games, she considered retiring from the sport.
Instead, she will serve a crucial leadership role on the U.S. team as the only athlete with prior experience on the Olympic stage.
SEE MORE: Meet the Athletes: Maame Biney