The U.S. Speedskating Team is set to be a force at the 2014 Winter Olympics, as both the men's and women's teams are loaded with talent.
Of course, before those talented skaters bring home any medals, they have to first qualify for the teams. That is going to be a different process at these trials, which commence on Friday at the Olympic oval near Salt Lake City.
Unlike past years, the top skaters will not be guaranteed a place on the U.S. team. They will have to earn it at the trials.
National sprint team coach Ryan Shimabukuro discussed the neew system, via the Associated Press:
I’m not a fan of the fact that our top skaters weren’t able to prequalify based on their World Cup results. A lot of those decisions were based on television coverage. But that makes it very difficult for us. We have a very hard travel schedule. When you get to this time of year, you want to protect your medal contenders.
All of this will certainly make the trials more entertaining.
Check out the schedule for the speedskating trials. I'll also offer up a closer look at three of Team USA's most promising female skaters.
U.S. Olympic Speedskating Trials Schedule
Friday, Dec. 27: Men’s 5000m/Women’s 3000m, 5:30 p.m. (NBCSN, 8 p.m.)
Saturday, Dec. 28: Men’s/Women’s 500m, 11:30 a.m. (NBC, 3 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 29:Men’s/Women’s 1000m, 1:30 p.m. (NBC, 3 p.m.)
Tuesday, Dec. 31: Men’s/Women’s 1,500m, 5 p.m. (NBCSN, 6 p.m.)
Wednesday, Jan. 1 Men’s 10,000m/Women’s 5000m, 3:30 p.m. (NBCSN, 5 p.m.)
Thursday, Jan. 2: Men's/Women's 9- and 4-lap time trial
Friday, Jan. 3: Men's/Women's 1,500m
Saturday, Jan. 4: Men's/Women's 500m
Sunday, Jan. 5: Men's/Women's 1,000m
Heather Richardson sits atop the World Cup standings in the 1,000 meters and she is second in the 500 meters.
The North Carolina native is a former in-line skater, and although she is just 24 years old, she has plenty of experience.
She is a veteran Olympic performer, having placed sixth in the 500 , ninth in the 1,000 and 16th in the 1,500 In Vancouver in 2010.
The 24-year-old is ready to improve upon her results this time around.
Ranked No. 1 in the World Cup standings in the 1,500, Brittany Rowe heads to the trials with an eye towards gold in Sochi.
Her excellence is not limited to the 1,500, either. She set the current world record for the 1,000 in November, and she is second behind Richardson in the 500 standings.
Like Richardson, she is a former in-line skater, but unlike her teammate, she does not have Olympic experience.
Experience or not, she has the speed to leave Sochi as a decorated Olympian.
Lana Gehring will attempt to take the lead on the short-track team after the retirement of 2010 hero Katherine Reutter.
Gehring is already an Olympic medalist. The 23-year-old took home bronze as a U.S. member of the 3,000 relay at the Vancouver Games.
Gehring is coming off a great run at the U.S. short-track speedskating championships. She took the top spot in both the 500 and 1,500.
Gehring hopes that performance starts a trend, as she had been having a disappointing season up to that point. That is of little concern now. With the form she showed at the U.S. championships, there is little questioning her medal potential.