Sunday, January 23, 2022
HomeNewsConnecticut NewsOlympic Speed Skater Kristen Santos's Higganum connection

Olympic Speed Skater Kristen Santos’s Higganum connection

By Kathy Brown.

Kristen “Puff” Santos is a short track speedskater headed for the Olympic trials this month, to see if she can earn a place on the team headed to Beijing in February 2022. Kristen’s mother, Donna Lula Soukup, lives in Higganum.

Kristen with her husky

Donna told HK-Now that Kristen started figure skating at 3 years old because her older sister, Samantha, wanted to try it. She then participated in both figure skating and soccer. When Kristen was 9 years old, Kristen saw speed skating on the Disney Channel “and begged me to bring her for almost a year,” explained Donna. “I told her I would look into it when soccer season was over.” Kristen remembered, and repeated her request. Donna looked into it and found a club in Connecticut. At that time, they were living in Fairfield. “I had a feeling she would be good at speed skating, ” said Donna. “During figure skating sessions, she would ask me to time her to see how fast she would go as she did laps around the rink.”

Within a couple of years, she won Nationals for her age bracket. After Kristen graduated high school in 2012, Donna and Kristen drove to Utah from Connecticut so that Kristen could attend University of Utah while training full time. “We had never been to Utah before this, so it was an adventure,” said Donna, who left her old car with Kristen to use while Donna flew back home to Connecticut.

“Connecticut will always have a place in my heart,” said Kristen. “The food, the houses, the trees, and the people are hard to come by anywhere else.”

She has been competing at World Cups for seven years. According to her website, she holds two American records: 500m (42.514), and 1000m (1:26.765).

Five years ago, Donna and her husband moved to Higganum after finding a historic home they loved. They had visited Essex and “really liked the area with the charming homes.” Kristen stayed in Utah to train.

In the spring of 2021, Kristen graduated with a degree in Kinesiology, and a minor in Nutrition. She has been training eight hours a day, six days a week on the US National Team while working toward her degree.

Kristen is also filming a speed skating session with Blippi, a YouTube educational video maker, who has over 14 million subscribers.

The Olympic trials will be aired live on December 17 (9:00 p.m. on NBCSN), 18 (5:30 p.m. NBCSN), and 19 (4:30 p.m. NBC), 2021. According to Donna, the top five girls and top two boys will make up the U.S. Olympic team. “This is based on how well they did on the four recent World Cups.” Kristen just earned her first World Cup Gold in 1000 meters at World Cup Nagoya, as well as two Bronze in 1000 and 1500 meters at World Cup Beijing.

“My ultimate goal is to medal at the Olympics,” said Kristen. “In the past, the dream was simply to become an Olympian, but over the years and with all the training, that has evolved into more and just being an Olympian isn’t enough. I want to be an Olympic medalist. These past World Cups and Olympic qualifiers have been a huge confidence booster going into the Games, and given me a lot of insight in what I need to do to reach the podium.”

Photos courtesy of Kristen Santos.

Must Read