J.R. Celski

U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Trials preview

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The atmosphere will be unfamiliar at the U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Trials beginning Thursday in Kearns, Utah.

The retirements last year of Apolo Ohno and Katherine Reutter, the most decorated U.S. skaters this century, left a void for not only new Olympians but also new stars.

Here’s the Olympic Trials schedule (all times Eastern):

Thursday — Men’s and women’s four- and nine-lap time trials, 3:30 p.m.
Friday — Men’s/Women’s 1500m, 5:30 p.m. (NBCSN,  8-10 p.m.)
Saturday — Men’s/Women’s 500m, 12 p.m. (NBCSN, 4-5:30 p.m.)
Sunday — Men’s/Women’s 1000m, 12 p.m. (NBC, 4-6 p.m.)

The U.S. men and women earned Olympic quota spots via World Cup results this season. The men earned the maximum allotment of five total skaters with three entries in each distance.

The women did not qualify the maximum allotment — failing to qualify an Olympic relay team for the first time — and will send its smallest team, three, since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 1992. The U.S. can enter three women in the Olympic 500m and 1500m and two in the 1000m.

The Olympic team selection process is not as simple as taking the top finishers from every distance. Skaters will be ranked by distance and in an overall standing via the following points system:

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Skaters’ four-lap time trial points are added to their points from two 500m races. Skaters’ nine-lap time trial points are added to their points from the 1000m and 1500m races for standings in those separate events. A time trial is worth 20 percent of a skater’s ranking per distance. Each result in a race is worth 40 percent.

The top-ranked skater in every distance will make the Olympic team. That could be one skater per gender (if he or she sweeps every distance), two skaters or three skaters (if a different skater wins each distance).

After that, if there are Olympic roster spots still available (there definitely will be for men), the second-ranked skater in every distance will make the Olympic team. If adding all of the second-ranked skaters exceeds the maximum Olympic roster size, priority would go to a skater who finished second in two of the three distances.

If that didn’t happen, the tiebreaker is a skater’s overall distance ranking, adding up points from both time trials and all three distances.

If there are Olympic roster spots still available after taking the top two skaters from every distance, the Olympic team will be filled by the top skaters remaining in the overall distance ranking.

Men’s Outlook

In the absence of Ohno and Reutter, one skater comes into trials already owning an individual Olympic medal. That would be J.R. Celski, who came back from a crash at the 2010 Olympic Trials to win two bronze medals in Vancouver.

On the last day of those trials (September 2009), Celski’s right skate drove into his left thigh, slicing it to the point he could see his femur and one inch from his femoral artery. Celski needed 60 stitches but said he was pain free six weeks later.

Celski took a full season off after Vancouver, collaborating with Macklemore and others for a film project, and came back faster than ever. In October 2012, he became the first man to break the 40-second barrier in the 500m.

He is clearly the best hope for a medal in Sochi, having made the podium in two of three races at the most recent World Cup event in Kolomna, Russia, in November.

Two other 2010 Olympians join Celski at trials — Travis Jayner and Jordan Malone. Ohno will be there, too, as an analyst for NBC and NBCSN.

The fifth member of the Vancouver team, Simon Cho, will not be competing. Cho was suspended through the Sochi Olympics for tampering with a Canadian’s skate blade in 2011. Cho’s admission came in 2012 and also involved US Speedskating coaches since let go. It created a schism among skaters, an issue still making headlines.

Back on the ice, Celski’s greatest competition will likely come from potential Olympic rookies. John-Henry Krueger, 18, and Eddy Alvarez, 23, also won World Cup medals this season.

Krueger, the son of a figure skating coach, was a three-time medalist at the 2012 World Junior Championships. Alvarez, of Miami, is the Spanish-speaking son of Cuban immigrants.

Women’s Outlook

Not qualifying a relay team cut the Olympic women’s roster from five to three, putting more pressure on a group that hasn’t won a World Cup medal since February 2012.

Jessica Smith, an alternate for the 2010 Olympic team, is now the leader. She’s the top U.S. skater in World Cup rankings for the 500m (21st overall) and 1500m (13th) and second in the 1000m (24th).

Emily Scott is ranked 15th in the 1000m and also a contender to make her first Olympic team.

Of the 2010 Olympians, Alyson Dudek and Lana Gehring were in the best form at the U.S. Championships in August.

WADA could introduce hair tests for doping

Anna Pogorilaya to miss Olympics

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Russian figure skater Anna Pogorilaya, who at this time last year was an Olympic medal favorite, will miss the rest of the season including the Pyeongchang Winter Games with a back injury, according to Russian media.

Pogorilaya, 19, was the world’s second-best skater in last fall’s Grand Prix series but dropped off and then plummeted to 13th at the world championships in March.

She fell three times in a disastrous free skate and hasn’t recovered.

She was unlikely to make the three-woman Olympic team for Russia, which should include two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, world junior champion Alina Zagitova and Maria Sotskova.

Medvedeva, who missed last week’s Grand Prix Final with a broken foot, plans to compete in next week’s Russian Championships, according to R-Sport, quoting a Russian figure skating federation official.

Pogorilaya was the 2016 World bronze medalist, sharing the podium in Boston with Medvedeva and American Ashley Wagner.

Pogorilaya also made the exclusive six-skater Grand Prix Final three times in four years, including in the 2013-14 Olympic season.

But she was eighth at Russian nationals that season and bypassed for the two-woman Olympic team. She was named to the March 2014 World Championships team and was fourth.

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Chris Froome returns abnormal doping test result

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PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome, a four-time Tour de France winner, has been required by cycling’s governing body to provide information after he returned an abnormal doping test for an asthma drug at the Vuelta a España.

Froome’s Team Sky said in a statement that Froome, who has not been suspended, has been informed by the UCI that a urine test on Sept. 7 revealed a concentration of salbutamol of 2,000 nanograms, twice the permissible dose.

“Thank you for all the messages of support this morning,” was posted on Froome’s social media Wednesday. “I am confident that we will get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately I can’t share any more information than I already have until the enquiry is complete.”

Sky said that the Kenyan-born rider had to take an increased dosage of salbutamol after he “experienced acute asthma symptoms” during the final week of the race.

Salbutamol is a drug that helps expand lung capacity. It can be used as a performance-enhancing drug to increase endurance.

After successfully defending his Tour de France title in July, Froome went on to win the Spanish Vuelta for the first time.

“My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my Salbutamol dosage,” Froome said in a statement. “As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose. I take my leadership position in my sport very seriously. The UCI is absolutely right to examine test results and, together with the team, I will provide whatever information it requires.”

The UCI said in a statement that both Froome’s ‘B’ sample confirmed the result, but stressed that “the presence of a specified substance such as salbutamol in a sample does not result in the imposition of such mandatory provisional suspension against the rider.”

Sky stressed the abnormal result does not mean Froome has breached anti-doping rules and team principal Dave Brailsford insisted he has the “utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for Salbutamol.”

Froome’s abnormal sample was returned after Stage 18. He was notified of the doping test result Sept. 20, the day he took bronze in the world championships time trial.

“As race leader, Chris was tested after every stage through this period and he declared his use of the medication as part of the process,” Sky said, adding that none of the 20 other urine tests taken by the Briton “required any further explanation.”

If found guilty of doping, the 32-year-old Froome could lose his Vuelta title and be suspended.

He said last month that he was planning to ride the Giro d’Italia next year in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.

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