Connecticut speed skater Kristen Santos on verge of Olympic dream. So she’s focused on staying safe.

Photo of Paul Doyle

Kristen Santos has been singularly focused on the 2022 Winter Olympics, skating through four years of training with the goal of competing and thriving in Beijing.

Just weeks from reaching that stage, Santos is not about to let anything stand in her way.

Not even the global pandemic that’s rocked the earth for the past two years.

Santos, a speed skater from Fairfield, is isolating. You think you know what isolating is after navigating COVID-19? Consider Santos’ life in Utah.

“Pretty much we are doing absolutely nothing besides training,” Santos said Thursday. “So I go home. I live with my fiancé and he is also in a complete lockdown. Luckily he works from home but the few times he like does have to do something out of the house for it, he’ll make sure it’s when like nobody’s in the office or anything like that....

“Food is, we’re doing delivery through Amazon on Whole Foods and things like, curbside pick-up or drive-thrus, and even then I’m like double masked and scared that I’m going to get COVID just through a drive-thru.”

Life in Salt Lake City is practice and training or home. Santos even avoids extra contact with Team USA teammates.

It’s just not worth the risk.

“Just stay extra cautious,” Santos said.

Understand what’s at stake: Santos just missed securing a spot in the 2018 Olympics after injuring her hand and wrist at a World Cup practice session in November 2017. Her training altered by the injury, Santos missed qualifying by one spot.

This time around, she was the No. 1 ranked U.S. woman in short track speedskating entering the trials in December. She won the 1,500-meter and 500-meter races, avenging her heartbreaking finish four years earlier.

Santos, 27, said her failure to secure a spot in the last Olympics has been a motivating force in her training for these Games. And it’s not about simply making this team.

“Four years ago, I had this goal of being an Olympian and going to the Olympics,” Santos said. “But having just missed out on the team made me realize how much I didn’t want to just be an Olympian, I wanted to go to the Olympics, and I wanted to be a medal contender. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be like really up in the mix of things.

“I don’t know if that hadn’t happened if I would have had that same motivation that I’ve had the past four years to be able to make these improvements and move forward. Because I think at that moment, I realized like if I had gone to the Games, I wasn’t going to do that much there. So while I was, like, sad I didn’t make it, I think I really, really realized I want to medal at the Games. I want to be there. I want to make a difference. I don’t want to just go to go.”

Santos’ speedskating journey began when she was 9. She grew up in Fairfield, skated at Yale — or Shelton or Trinity College or as far as New York — and she steadily improved, eventually becoming a junior national champion 15 years ago.

She graduated from Fairfield Warde High School in 2012 and decided to pursue her love in Salt Lake City, site of US Speedskating National Headquarters. She attended the University of Utah and immersed herself in the sport.

The culmination coming next month. speedskating will be staged in Beijing Feb. 10-24. There won’t be family on hand to watch, it’ll be a quiet venue as Santos and her teammate bid for medals.

That’s sports during the pandemic.

“Obviously I wish my family could be there,” Santos said. “But I think either way, like, NBC and other things are really great at like making it special and feeling connected with back home.

But I’m just excited for it, either way. I think that especially after the Olympic trials, for me that was kind of like the stepping stone to get to my goal. So now I’m just way more focused, even more anxious to be ready and be there.”

And to complete the journey, Santos will focus on staying healthy and steering clear of people.

“A little bit scary right now with COVID,” Santos said. “So being extra cautious in that sense. But yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to it a ton. And it’s something that I’ve been working for forever, pretty much, so I’m hoping to make the most of it.”