Speed skating-American Santos lays down 2022 marker with 1,000m World Cup gold

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– American Kristen Santos won her maiden short track speed skating World Cup gold medal in a photo finish in Nagoya on Sunday, giving her a huge boost of confidence with the 2022 Beijing Olympics just three months away

Santos took the lead with four laps to go in the 1,000m final and edged the Netherlands’ reigning Olympic champion Suzanne Schulting by 0.064 seconds.

Schulting’s compatriot Xandra Velzeboer came third while Canada’s Kim Boutin, the 2018 Olympic silver medallist, was fifth.

Santos was delighted to add gold to the two World Cup bronze medals she won in Beijing the previous weekend.

“The past two weeks have definitely been a whirlwind,” Santos said.

“They (Schulting and Boutin) are all really amazing athletes and people that I’ve looked up to for so long. So to be in the mix of it with them is honestly an honour and really exciting.”

Schulting had reason to celebrate later when the Dutch team won gold in the 3,000m relay.

“I’m really happy with how this day has been panning out, despite me finishing second in the women’s 1,000m earlier,” Schulting said.

“I’ve learned a lot from today and that will definitely help me out for the rest of the season and at the Olympics.”

In the men’s 1,000m, China’s Ren Ziwei led from start to finish to secure gold in the absence of South Korean world record holder Hwang Dae-heon, who pulled out of the quarter-finals due to medical reasons.

“I want to maintain this feeling for the rest of the season with Beijing 2022 coming up,” said Ren. “I’m very happy about the opportunity to compete in my home country but I also feel the pressure.”

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(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)