Last summer, Eric Flaim wondered a lot if his speedskating comeback was worth all the pain.
Fly-infested hikes through the hills of northern Michigan, bicycle rides through torrential downpours, and countless weight rooms had a demoralizing effect on the 30-year-old Flaim, the only person to win Olympic medals in both long and short track speedskating.Flaim, who earned a spot for relay events, was in contention for the third individual spot on the team when competition started on Sunday. But his hopes of finishing that high slipped away in a split second in his first heat. Scott Koons and J.P. Shilling sped past him in the final strides and Flaim's third-place finish ended his day.
Flaim wasn't the only one Koons surprised. Trailing in fourth place entering the final turn of the 1,000-meter final, Koons swept past Ian Baranski and Thomas O'Hare on the inside to finish second to Andy Gabel and qualify for his first Olympic team.
Gabel, 33, of Northbrook, Ill., finished where he had been since the first race of the four-day competition - on top, with 28 of a possible 30 points. He won both time trials and three of four finals, losing only to Rusty Smith in the 1,000-meter final last Sunday.
Other members of the men's team going to Nagano, Japan, are: Smith, 18, of Sunset Beach, Calif.; Daniel Weinstein, 16, Brookline, Mass.; and O'Hare, 20, of St. Louis.
The women's team has the same kind of mix, with two former Olympians and four newcomers.
Amy Peterson, 26, of Maplewood, Minn., who has won three Olympic medals, continued her stirring comeback from chronic fatigue syndrome. Peterson edged her training partner, Erin Porter of Saratoga Springs, in the women's final Sunday to finish atop the standings with 26 points.
The other members of the women's team are: Erin Gleason, 21, of Jackson, N.J.; Caroline Hallisey, 17, of Natick, Mass., who finished tied in points with two-time Olympic gold medalist Cathy Turner, 35, Hilton, N.Y.; and Julie Goskowicz, 17, of New Berlin, Wis., who edged Sarah Lang for the final spot.