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Kearns • For a long time, women's short-track speedskating in the United States has been known for powerhouse Katherine Reutter … and not really anybody else too dangerous.
Two years before the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia, the Americans are really starting to show the depth they have been building behind Reutter, a reigning world champion and two-time Olympic medalist. They have combined to win 11 of the team's 13 medals in three World Cup competitions so far this season.
"Our ladies team is one of the top teams in the world at this point," said Chris Weaver, the short-track manager for U.S. Speedskating. "We've never had that before. It's really exciting."
All that blossoming talent will be on display this weekend at the U.S. Short-Track Championships at the Utah Olympic Oval, albeit in a slightly different fashion.
Although the skaters have established a terrific rapport while competing against powerful international opponents such as South Korea and China at World Cup races around the world, there will be no foreign competition this weekend.
Instead, both the women and the men will compete only among themselves, aiming not just for national championships but also for places on the U.S. team for the last two World Cup races of the season and the World Championships in Shanghai, China.
Naturally, Reutter is favored to win her fifth straight overall national title. But behind her, a strong group of improving teammates who also train at the Utah Olympic Oval continue to make their mark.
Aly Dudek, Lana Gehring and Jessica Smith each has won at least one individual World Cup medal this season Dudek's bronze at the season-opening race at the Utah Olympic Oval was the first of her career and Emily Scott has been inching ever closer to the podium.
"We've been progressing a lot the past few years," Dudek said. "We're pushing each other in training every single day, and it's obviously paying off. We've started out this season really strong and it's going to continue to get better for us."
The group even won a silver medal in the relay at the last World Cup stop in Shanghai an improvement from the bronze that Dudek, Gehring, Reutter and Kimberly Derrick helped win at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In that race, the women trailed badly in the four-team race, almost getting lapped, but finished third only after victorious South Korea was disqualified.
"For the first time this year, I feel like we work as a team better than we ever have before," Reutter said. "Everyone is so supportive of each other in training; everyone wants to help everyone else get just a little bit stronger. As far as depth goes, we're becoming one of the strongest, deepest teams in the world."
U.S. Short-Track Championships
P At the Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns
Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. • Men's and women's 9-lap and 4-lap time trials
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. • Men's and women's 500 and 1,500 meters
Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. • Men's and women's 1,000 and 3,000 meters and relays
Admission • free