Kearns • To say Ryan Pivirotto experienced a letdown after the 2018 Olympic games would be a gross mischaracterization. It felt more akin to a freefall.

The only USA Speedskating athlete on the Olympic team who didn’t get to compete — he served as an alternate in the men’s relay and the 1,000 meters — Pivirotto experienced a crisis of confidence in PyeongChang, South Korea, and beyond. Ten times last season, at least, the 24-year-old said he entertained notions of packing away his skates.

“I was asking myself, ‘Am I really that good? I can’t even skate at the Olympics,’” Pivirotto said. “I’ve asked that a lot: ‘Is this all I can really do? Am I done?’ I asked myself that a lot last season because I just wasn’t good. I still had the baggage from the Olympics.”

Yet Pivirotto showed up at the Utah Olympic Oval on Friday for the first day of the US Speedskating Short Track National Championships with basically just his carry-on. Propelled by an improved attitude and increased confidence, he won three heats and put himself in position to claim a World Championship berth. The two men and two women who accumulate the most points by the time the last ice shavings are swept off the Oval on Sunday will represent the United States at the ISU World Championships in Seoul, South Korea, on March 13-15.

Pivirotto believes he has a shot at a spot, which marks a serious turnaround from his outlook heading into nationals last season.

“He didn’t get to skate [in the Olympics] and that had a big, big effect on him,” Wilma Boomstra, who was hired as the short track coach for USA Speedskating shortly after the 2018 Olympics. “I think he was just lost a little bit for a little while.”

After that national championships, held almost exactly a year ago at the Oval, Pivirotto and Boomstra sat down for a long talk turned therapy session. Pivirotto unloaded on his new coach all his pent up emotions about his unfulfilling Olympic experience and his frustration over not making the 2018-19 World Cup team. She, in turn, offered him a sounding board and a shot of confidence.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ryan Pivirotto prepares for a semifinals mixed relay race as part of the U.S. Short Track Speedskating championships on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.
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That’s what exactly what Pivirotto had been missing. Shortly after, his coaches said he began smiling at practice again.

“I think my talk with Wil was the thing that really was the turning point. I was able to bury all my doubts, all my grudges, everything that happened to me at the Olympics and that season,” Pivirotto said. “I was able to bury it and just forget about it, or not have it affect me as a skater.”

In addition to visceral results, Pivirotto has hard evidence of his turnaround. He earned his way back onto Team USA’s Fall World Cup team in October by winning both the 1,000 and 1,500 in the qualifier. The next month in Japan, he achieved his best World Cup result of his career in the 1,000 when he placed 11th, missing the semifinals by .07 seconds. The result bumped him up to No. 29 on the circuit in the event, one position behind top American Aaron Tran.

Boomstra expects even more from him. She said she would like to see him reach at least the B final in the last two World Cup races of the season, in Germany and the Netherlands in February. She also understands it will take him time to get there — just as it has taken time to climb back up from rock bottom.

He understands that, too. But now armed with Boomstra’s faith and support and bolstered by his growing self-confidence, Pivirotto is no longer is packing a parachute.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ryan Pivirotto, right, competes in the 2000 meter mixed semifinal relay race as part of the U.S. Short Track Speedskating championships on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.
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“My goal is to be the best,” he said, matter-of-factly.

It’s a big goal — even bigger than reaching the 2022 Olympics in Beijing (and skating in them). And he’s chasing it down just as he does his competition: at top speed.

U.S. SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS


When: Saturday-Sunday, starting at 8:50 a.m.
Where: Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns
Admission: Free
On the line: National titles in each event as well as spots on the World Cup and Junior World Cup teams. The two senior men and senior women with the most overall points will earn berths to the ISU World Championships in South Korea in March.
Results: mmresults.azurewebsites.net