Hedrick, Lamb winners at U.S. speedskating qualifier

Updated: October 21, 2006, 2:16 PM ET
Associated Press

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Olympic champion Chad Hedrick won at 5,000 meters and Maria Lamb captured the 3,000 Saturday in the fall World Cup qualifier for the U.S. speedskating team.

Hedrick of Spring, Texas, easily won in 6 minutes, 43.08 seconds at the Pettit National Ice Center, far slower than his gold-medal time of 6:14.68 at the Turin Games.

"Not a great time, but it's a stepping stone," Hedrick said.

He is easing back into skating after a five-month layoff from training and competition. He finished 10th in the 500-meter race Friday in the only other event he entered in the four-day event to select long track sprint and allround teams for World Cup competition.

Hedrick, who also won silver and bronze medals in Turin, already has qualified for the World Cup team. He is trying to get back into shape for the rest of the season.

In the only other event, Lamb of River Falls won the women's 3,000 in 4:22.49.

"I felt pretty good," she said.

After a women's 5,000 and a men's 10,000 Sunday, U.S. coaches will make their final selections for the team. The only other prequalified skaters besides Hedrick are Shani Davis of Chicago, who has also won a spot on the short track team, and Catherine Raney of Elm Grove.

Ordinarily, there would be more prequalified skaters based on past performances, but medal-winning skaters like Casey FitzRandolph, Derek Parra, Jennifer Rodriguez and Joey Cheek have either retired or are pursuing other interests this season. Their absence has opened spots for newcomers like Jessica Smith of Melvindale, Mich., who has made the team based on her runs in two 500-meter races.

The 23-year-old Smith began competing in inline skating when she was 13 and has won a dozen world titles. She switched to the ice in 2004 because she wanted to compete in an Olympics.

"It feels good," she said. "I'm glad to do it now so I have more time to get used to the competition. It will help me in my goal of making an Olympic team."

Her best finish in the two 500s was third. She also placed fourth in the 3,000.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press