February 7, 2018 / 9:12 AM / 10 months ago

Short track: U.S. newcomer Biney readies a killer game face

PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - Few people wandering around the Olympic venues have as big and infectious a smile as American Maame Biney, but her opponents on the short-track speed-skating oval should be warned: she says it masks a killer game face.

FILE PHOTO - Dec 16, 2017; Kerns, UT, USA; Maame Biney (1) reacts to winning the A Final of the 500-meter race qualifying her for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team at Utah Olympic Oval. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

“My game face on the ice is totally different from right now. It’s not this,” Biney said on Wednesday, sweeping her hand around a beaming smile as she spoke at a Team USA news conference here.

“It’s like ... don’t be in my way because I’m probably going to kill you,” she said and then doubled over in her chair in laughter.

Biney is the first African-American to make the U.S. Olympic short-track speed skating team and, having just turned 18, is the youngest member of a team short of Olympic veterans.

Just three of the eight Americans on the short-track team have competed at the Olympic level and only two have won medals. J.R. Celski won silver and bronze in the 5,000-meter men’s relay at Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014, and Lana Gehring won a bronze in the women’s 3,000-meter relay in Vancouver.

Biney makes her Olympic debut on Saturday, competing in the women’s 500-meter, a sprint distance she won at the U.S. Olympic qualifiers. She won bronze at in the 500 meter at the 2017 world junior championships.

A speed-skating eminence grise no less influential than Apolo Anton Ohno has labeled her a possible future face of American short track, and said he would not be surprised to see her break out in Pyeongchang. [nL8N1PI01F]

Asked how it felt to have the most-decorated U.S. Winter Olympian predict so bright future for her, Biney responded with trademark giddiness.

“It feels good I guess, but it’s not only me that’s out there. It’s like, all my team mates. So I’m just one of the few girls on the team,” she said, breaking down with giggles.

“It feels good,” she said, recovering her composure. “I’m glad he said that. That’s so cool.”

Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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