A Fairfield native made her hometown proud, taking the top spot against a formidable field of foes at the U.S. short track speed skating championships.
Kristen Santos, 24, a member of the Team USA, took home the gold medal earlier this month at the Championships, toppling some of the finest skaters in the country.
At the championships, Santos went toe-to-toe with 2018 Olympian and junior short track champion Maame Biney and narrowly edged her out in the 1,000-meter race. That win propelled her to the title of U.S. short track champion after she also took top honors in the 1,500-meter competition.
The 2012 Fairfield Warde High School graduate has been known to train eight hours a day in Utah before she joined the U.S. team.
“Honestly, it’s a really thrilling sport,” Santos said, noting top contenders reach speeds of 30 mph. “I love the speed.”
Santos started figure skating at the tender age of three, taking lessons at Bridgeport’s Wonderland of Ice.
But a Disney ad extolling the merits of speedskating caught her eye when she was nine and her mother went on the hunt for places to try the sport near their Villa Avenue home. Santos started competing soon afterward and showed early promise. She traveled out to the University of Utah for college, hoping to juggle both studies and sports, but she put school on hold to make a push for the U.S. Olympic squad.
She’ also part of DICK’S Sporting Goods’ Contenders Program. As Team USA’s official sporting goods retail sponsor, the company has hired about 100 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, offering them flexible schedules and competitive wages while they train.
Santos was met on the podium by Aaron Tran, who won the U.S. short track men’s championship with a first, second and this place finish in a trio of events during the tournament.
According to deseretnews.com, U.S. National Short Track head coach Wilma Boomstra sang the praises of some of her youngest competitors following the event.
“I’m pretty pleased,” she said. ““The young ones stepped it up again a notch. You can see the gap between them is getting smaller, which means their levels are getting higher and higher, which means we’ll be ready for international competitions. I love how my team works together. They’ve got each other’s backs, and I love that. So I’m happy.”
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