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SPEEDSKATING: Federal Way's JR Celski earns another World Cup trip
Federal Way’s JR Celski clinched a spot on the World Cup team after sweeping the men’s races last weekend at the United States Single Distance Short Track Speedskating Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Celski, who won a pair of bronze medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, made an inside move with half a lap remaining to win the 1,000 meters Saturday and skated to an easy victory in the 1,500 that same night.
Celski skated for the Utah Olympic Oval’s FAST Team during the Single Distance Short Track Championships. He was one of 10 skaters to automatically qualify for the U.S. World Cup team. The athletes have until Oct. 7 to accept. Two discretionary picks won’t be named until after an arbitration hearing regarding a coaching abuse scandal concludes in early October.
The skaters have been competing on divided teams because of charges against Jae Su Chun, who has been placed on administrative leave by U.S. Speedskating after allegations of verbal, physical and psychological abuse by at least a dozen national team members. Some of the athletes back Chun, but many, including Celski, have left the National Racing Program.
An arbitration hearing scheduled to start Nov. 1 seeks his permanent removal. Documents filed as part of the arbitration allege he directed skater Simon Cho to tamper with a Canadian rival’s skates during last year’s world championship.
Celski led a FAST team sweep in Saturday’s 1,000, finishing in 1 minute, 26.576 seconds, ahead of Kyle Carr (1:26.632) and Jeff Simon (1:26.787). The points Celski earned Saturday coupled with his third-place finish in Friday’s 500 locked up the World Cup spot.
“I am excited,” Celski said. “I know that this year is going to be a good year. We have a lot of good, healthy and talented guys coming up and I think we are going to be a force to reckon with around the world.”
Celski is coming back from a broken ankle suffered last year, and said his summer training paid off.
“I put in a lot of hard work in day in and day out,” he said. “You never know what the results are going to be until your race and it feels good to see that I am doing OK.”
This wasn’t the first injury Celski has had to come back from in his short career. As a 19-year-old, Celski had a 6-inch gash sliced into his left thigh at the 2010 U.S. Olympic Trials. The cut, caused by a skate, required 60 stitches to close.
But Celski acquired enough points before the injury at the Olympic Trials to qualify for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where he won two bronze medals just five months after the injury.
Following the 2010 games, Celski took a year off from skating to complete a 90-minute documentary about the Seattle-area hip-hop scene. The documentary is set to debut at some film festivals later this year.
Celski returned to the ice in October 2011 and swept the American Cup 1 event in Missouri.
Celski’s skating career started as a 4-year-old inline skater at Federal Way’s Pattison’s West with his father, Bob, and two brothers, Chris and David. After numerous inline national championships, Celski switched over to the ice as a 12-year-old to follow in the skates of his idol, Apolo Ohno, who was also a former Pattison’s skater and Olympic gold medalist.