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January 2, 2014

American teen Lehman earns another Olympic race

KEARNS, Utah — Emery Lehman will be heading back to high school in a few days.

He’s going to need a lot of time off in February.

The 17-year-old from suburban Chicago earned a second Olympic event with a thrilling victory over Jonathan Kuck in the 10,000 meters Wednesday, the final race of the U.S. speedskating trials.

Kuck, who finished eighth in the 10,000 at the Vancouver Games and was thought to have an outside shot at medaling in Sochi, won’t even get to skate the race after Lehman rallied at the end to win by a scant 0.07 seconds, a remarkably close margin after 25 laps around the big oval.

“That was pretty insane,” said Lehman, a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Ill.

Lehman was about 4 seconds behind with three laps to go, but he turned on the speed and began closing the gap quickly. As the bell rang for the final lap, Lehman stormed ahead from the inside lane as the crowd at the Utah Olympic Oval roared, not used to seeing such a dramatic finish in speedskating’s longest event.

The skaters switched over on the backstretch, and Kuck surged to the front coming off the final turn. But Lehman, with a hand on one knee and the other arm swinging furiously, chased down Kuck on the final straightaway and stuck his right skate over the line, about two blades lengths ahead of Kuck.

The youngster stuck a finger in the air, confident he had won even before the winning time of 13 minutes, 22.77 seconds was posted on the scoreboard.

“First of all, I didn’t expect to be finishing anywhere close to Jonathan,” said Lehman, who knocked 7 seconds off his personal best. “I never quite died, I guess.”

In the final women’s race, Maria Lamb earned her third trip to the Olympics with a victory in the 5,000. The 27-year-old Wisconsin native dominated the 11-skater field with a time of 7:13.31 — more than 7 seconds ahead of runner-up Petra Acker.

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