Sports

Ohno wins another US title; Celski also impressive

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Federal Way was well-represented on the podium at the United States National Short Track Championships last weekend in Milwaukee.

Apolo Anton Ohno, who grew up in Federal Way before moving to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as a 14-year-old, dominated the four-day competition. Ohno, ranked No. 1 in the world, won the overall U.S. championship with 170 points, a perfect score — winning 11 out of 11 races at the Pettit National Ice Center. The victory was his fifth consecutive and seventh time overall.

But Federal Way 14-year-old J.R. Celski’s performance at the US Nationals might have been even more impressive. Everyone knows what to expect from Ohno. Celski finished up eighth place overall in the senior elite men’s division as a 14-year-old, which means he was skating against the best of the best, including Ohno. This was the first time Celski, who is currently living and training in Long Beach, Calif., has competed against the top short track skaters in the United States.

Celski’s classed as a juvenile. But rather than compete in that age bracket, he chose to try for a slot at the 18-and-over senior elite level. Speed skating age classes run every two years.

The top-16 finishers at the national meet also qualified for the 2006 US Olympic Trials. But American short track rules say Celski is too young to participate.

“This is unprecedented, a juvenile division skater reaching this height,” said J.R.’s father, Bob Celski. “He had some good races, and some not-so-good. But skating against the best in the country, and the best in the world for the first time was somewhat intimidating during most of this meet. After what he accomplished, the landscape will change in the future. He knows how good he truly can be.”

Celski’s best finishes came in the 1500- and 3000-meter races. He ended up fifth in both races and actually led over 10 laps in the 3000.

Ohno’s first-place performance in Milwaukee earned the 22-year-old a berth into the World Short Track Championships next weekend in Beijing, China. The top-five men and women qualified for Worlds.

Ohno said his sweep of the six individual events, along with the preliminary races, was not as easy as he made it look.

“Absolutely not,” Ohno said on the US Olympic Web site. “It’s never easy.”

Both Ohno and Celski started their careers as in-line skaters at Federal Way’s Pattison West Skate Center.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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