SPEEDSKATING: Celski wins overall gold medal at national championships

Federal Way native J.R. Celski (front) won the overall championship at last weekend
Federal Way native J.R. Celski (front) won the overall championship at last weekend's United States Senior Short Track Speedskating National Championships in Salt Lake City. Celski won three of the four races contested.
— image credit: Courtesy Jerry Search

J.R. Celski's record-setting 2012 season continued last weekend. The Federal Way native added an overall title at the United States Senior Short Track Speedskating National Championships in Salt Lake City.

Of the four events held in Utah, Celski walked away with gold medals in three of them. He won the 500, 1,500 and 3,000 meters and finished up in fifth place in the 1,000 to lock up the national championship.

The first-place finish earns Celski a spot on the U.S. team at the final two World Cup stops in Sochi, Russia, and Dresden, Germany. Celski will also be America's top seed at the Short Track World Championships in Hungary in March. Sochi is where the 2014 Winter Olympic Games will be held.

"It's always good to go and test the waters," Celski told "We went to Vancouver at the end of 2008 and got to skate at the (site) that was going to be the Olympics. So it was really cool just to see that, experience that and know what you're going to get yourself into."

Celski has already had an impressive 2012 season on the short track circuit. In October, won a gold medal at a World Cup race in Calgary, setting a world record in the 500 meters. Celski became the first-ever skater to finish the 500 in less than 40 seconds. He also won a silver and bronze at World Cup races in Canada.

Celski did suffer a concussion two weeks ago at a World Cup event in Japan after he fell in a semifinal race in the 1,500. He slid into the boards, where his knee hit him in the eye.

"I never really dealt with a head injury before and from what the doctors said, the only thing to really cure a concussion was rest. I trained and rested. Those were the only things I focused on. I was really relieved to be able to skate," said Celski.

Despite the concussion, the 22-year-old Celski's body 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. He returned to the ice in October 2011.

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.

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