What To Watch For As Short Track World Championships Kick Off In Montreal
by Lynn Rutherford
Maame Biney reacts after competing during the women's 1,000-meter quarterfinals at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 11, 2022 in Beijing.
When Maame Biney’s blades clashed with those of another skater at the start of the women’s 500-meter quarterfinal at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 in February, her hopes to advance through to the final were dashed.
Then and there, she vowed to “rise up again, like a phoenix.”
Eight weeks later, the two-time Olympian from Reston, Virginia, will get her chance this weekend. The 2022 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships begin in Montreal on Friday with the qualifying rounds for the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter individual events.
The final rounds in the 1,500 and 500 follow on Saturday, as do the relay semifinals. The wraps up concludes Sunday with the conclusion of the 1,000-meter event, as well as the 3,000-meter and relay finals.
Coming off several exciting races and close calls in Beijing, but ultimately no medals, the U.S. short track skaters will be looking for their first world championships podium finish since 2014.
Biney, who placed ninth in the 1,000-meters in Beijing, will be joined in Montreal by fellow 2022 Olympian Eunice Lee, the alternate member of Team USA’s 3,000-meter Olympic relay team that finished eighth.
On the men’s side, two teenagers — Marcus Howard of Federal Way, Washington, and Seung-Min Kwon of Rockville, Maryland — make their senior world championships debuts.
Here are a few things to watch for:
Biney’s Star Power
Biney burst onto the international scene in 2018 when she became the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic speedskating team. At age 22, she is now the veteran of the group: this will be her third world championships.
A former junior world champion in her signature 500-meter event, the Ghana-born, Reston-raised skater is often at her best in the sprint, though her best individual finishes as a global championship both came in the 1,000 — taking ninth in the event in Beijing, and 10th at the 2018 world championships.
(L-R) Kristen Santos, Eunice Lee and Corinne Stoddard train during a short track speedskating training session at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Jan. 31, 2022 in Beijing.
Even after the fluke mistake in the 500-meter quarterfinals in Beijing, Biney left the Chinese capital with a positive attitude.
“I feel there is no need to be bitter about a situation I can’t do anything about,” she said. “And I think that is some sort of inspiration to myself, and also to young Black girls around the world, who feel that whatever the situation presented to them, they (can) overcome it and rise up again like a phoenix.”
She’ll have that opportunity this weekend.
Team USA’s Youth
Lee, at 17, was the youngest member of Team USA’s Olympic squad since 1998. The 4.0 student at Newport High School in Bellevue, Washington, had originally targeted the 2026 Games, but strong performances at the Olympic trials earned her a spot as the fifth member of the women’s squad in Beijing.
“I didn’t think that this could really be a realistic possibility for me,” Lee said in an interview with Bellevue’s NBC affiliate. “With the way that I’ve been improving in these past couple months, it all kind of started to become a little bit more plausible.”
Though she didn’t end up racing in Beijing, Lee competed at the junior world championships in Gdansk, Poland, last month, reaching the B final of the 1,500.
Kwon, 18, and Howard, 19, are also hot off strong performances in Gdansk. Kwon turned in the event’s best finish for Team USA, skating to fifth place in the 1,000-meter, while Howard finished 10th in the event.
Like several all-time greats — including eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno, the most decorated winter Olympian in U.S. history, and three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski — Howard grew up skating at Pattison’s West inline skating center in Federal Way. When he was 7, Celski visited Pattison’s to meet with local kids and show them his two bronze medals from the Vancouver Games.
“It put everything in perspective,” Howard told TeamUSA.org last summer. “Everyone starts somewhere. And starting out somewhere similar to where he started made me feel a lot more confident.”
More Open Fields
At press time, the ISU had yet to release an entry list for Montreal. It is expected many of the stars of the Beijing Games, including strong teams from South Korea, the Netherlands, Canada and Italy, will be on hand. We know, though, that Russian and Chinese athletes — winners of six short track Olympic medals in February — will not compete.
Lots Of Crowd Enthusiasm
After sparse crowds all season long, Team USA’s athletes have the chance to compete in front of cheering spectators. Montreal loves its short track: this is the third time the city’s Maurice Richard Arena has hosted the world championships since 2014.
Adding to the excitement, it will be the final competition for hometown hero Charles Hamelin, a six-time Olympic medalist who will seek his 38th world championships medal.