Kristen Santos Becomes First U.S. Speedskater To Qualify For The 2022 Winter Olympics

by Katie Grunik

Kristen Santos celebrates qualifying for the Olympics at the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Short Track Speedskating on Dec. 18, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 


SALT LAKE CITY – Kristen Santos became the first U.S. speedskater to qualify for the Olympic team on Saturday at the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Short Track Speedskating in Salt Lake City. 

Santos won the women’s 1,500-meter A final in 2:27:42, followed by Corinne Stoddard in second and Julie Letai in third. She took control of the pace at the 1,000-meter mark and dominated to the finish line to secure her spot at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. 

“It’s surreal,” Santos said. “I feel like I can’t stop crying every time I talk about it, but I’m so overwhelmed. I’m so happy. I’m really glad my family was all here to experience it with me.” 

Santos said it means so much to be able to celebrate this milestone with her family, who made up a large cheering section with red ‘Team Santos’ shirts at the Olympic Oval throughout the weekend. 
“I could not have done it without them,” Santos said. “It’s like they qualified with me.” 
Her journey to her first Olympics has not been easy. Santos narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. She sustained an injury in a world cup race a few weeks before the 2018 Trials, which disrupted her training. 

Santos’s journey in this quad however has been a very different story. She came into the 2022 Olympic Trials as the top U.S. woman in short track speedskating and the American record holder in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters. Building off her success in the world cup circuit, she swept the first round of Trials finals on Friday. 
On Saturday, Santos suffered a setback after a fall during the 1,000-meter final and had to refocus for the 1,500-meter finals, her first opportunity to qualify for the Games, shortly after. 
“I fell in the 1,000, which is my favorite race, so it was really hard to get over that,” Santos said.  “But I really had to put that behind me and put everything I had into the 1,500.” 

With her spot on the Olympic team secured, Santos said she’ll shift her focus for the last day of Trials. 

“Tomorrow’s going to be a little more exciting because the pressure is off now,” Santos said. “It’s going to give me an opportunity to race to learn things rather than racing to win, and I think that’s going to set me up a lot better for the Games. Also, its going to be really exciting to watch my teammates qualify.” 

Santos said she’s gotten really close with U.S. teammates Maame Biney, Corinne Stoddard and Julie Letai as they been training together and the main women’s relay team on the world cup circuit. 
They’ll look to continue their world cup success as the first U.S. women’s short track relay team to qualify for the Olympics since 2010. Regardless of Sunday’s Olympic qualifying results, the relay team will stand together as a bridal party in Santos’s August wedding.

Ryan Pivirotto competes in the men's 1,000 meter final at the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Short Track Speedskating on Dec. 18, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Ryan Pivirotto continued to stake his claim on one of two Olympic team spots for the men in Saturday’s finals. 

He won the 1,000 meter in 1:24:40. Brandon Kim took second by 0.1 and Andrew Heo finished third in 1:24:71. Despite his continued success at Olympic Trials so far, Pivirotto said he has no plans to relax ahead of the final races. 

“This is the go time right now,” Pivirotto said. “…I feel like I’m there but with this sport you never know. Anything can happen so I’m not even worried about tomorrow. I’m worried about my next race.” 

While Pivirotto maintains a laser focus on racing, his family beamed with pride when reflecting on his journey through speedskating. They’ve been there every step of the way, since his first Olympic Trials appearance in 2014 and being named as an alternate to the 2018 Olympic team.  

“I’m very proud of him,” said Jessica Pivirotto, Ryan’s older sister. “I see how hard he works, and I’m glad that it’s paying off.”

“He has really worked hard,” said Scott Pivirotto, Ryan’s dad. “If it doesn’t work out, it’s not because he hasn’t put in the effort or hasn’t show his capabilities. He deserves all the credit no matter what happens. 

After night two of Trials, Andrew Heo sat just below Pivirotto at the top of the men’s field. Heo won the men’s 1,500 final, finishing 0.1 ahead of Pivirotto and inching him closer to a spot on his first Olympic team. 

“I just tried to calm down a little more and relax during the race,” Heo said.

His strategy paid off, setting him up in a strong position for the final day of Trials. Heo, a Washington state native, describes himself as a skater that relies on his feel for the ice. He also has another training tool that sets him apart from the field – his brother Aaron, who competed for Team USA at the Youth Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 2016. 

Andrew said his brother is attending Olympic Trials with the rest of his family and sends him notes after each race. 

“After the 1,000, he sent me a bunch of texts about how to skate and what to do,” Heo said. “…he was known for being a really good racer strategy-wise, so I trust his advice.” 

Both the Pivirotto and Heo families will be attendance as the top two men will be named to the U.S. Olympic Speedskating team on Sunday. 

The last day of competition features the 1,000- and 500-meter races. Winners of the women’s races will be named directly to the team, for a total of five roster spots. The two men’s team roster spots will be decided by cumulative point totals across the Olympic Trials races.
Katie Grunik is a digital content creator for She covered the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and currently serves as the digital content coordinator for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.