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SPEEDSKATING: Federal Way's Celski sets world record in the 500 meters Sunday
Federal Way's J.R. Celski can now add the title world-record holder to his impressive list of accomplishments The 22-year-old short track speedskater set his world record in the final of the 500-meter race at the Samsung ISU Short Track World Cup in Calgary, Alberta on Sunday.
Celski won the race in a time of 39.937 seconds to become the first-ever skater to finish the 500 in under 40 seconds. His time surpasses the mark of 40.344 set by Russian Vladimir Grigorev in a preliminary heat Friday in Calgary. Canadian Charles Hamelin was runner-up in the final in 40.420.
"I wasn't really expecting to go that fast today because it's been a long weekend of racing," Celski said Sunday after the race. "Ice kind of tends to break down over time, but it held its ground and I'm really excited to come out with that world record today."
In all, the United States team left Calgary with three medals, including Celski's bronze from Saturday's 1000-meter finals. Grigorev won the gold in the event, followed by Canada's Olivier Jean.
"I set up my pass with two laps to go and just tried to stay on my feet for the rest of the race," Celski said about the 500-meter final. "I still can't believe it but I think it will sink in (during) the next couple of days."
The next stop for Celski and the rest of Team USA is Montreal, where the World Cup gets underway Friday. There are also World Cup races scheduled in Japan, China, Sweden, Russia, Germnay and the World Championships will be held in Hungary Aug. 3, 2013.
Celski is finally healthy after batting injury problems for the last couple years. He suffered a broken ankle last year and, 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 had acquired enough points before the injury at the Olympic Trials to qualify for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where he won two bronze medals just five months later.
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.