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.

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PyeongChang late night roundup

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Last night belonged to the U.S. women’s hockey team. In the unlikely event that you slept through the game, the USA defeated Canada in a mesmerizing 3-2 shootout to win the USA’s first Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey since 1998.

It was Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson who gave the United States the go-ahead goal in the sixth shootout attempt, and it was Rooney’s block that sealed the victory for the Americans.

That wasn’t the only key event tonight, though. Mikaela Shiffrin got back on the podium in the women’s combined, while Lindsey Vonn posted a DNF in the second run.

Continue reading below to catch up on all the action from PyeongChang.


Hockey: USA win gold, def. CAN 3-2 (SO)

This victory was decades in the making. After narrowly losing to Canada in Olympic finals before, the Americans were finally able to win the gold medal.

The game proved to be a hotly-contested affair and featured the highest quality, and the grittiest, hockey played throughout the course of the tournament. The USA were up 1-0 at the first intermission, before Canada put up two goals of their own in the second. A goal by Monique Lamoureux-Morando brought the U.S. level before they took out the four-time defending gold medalists in the shootout.

Click here for the full recap 

Alpine Skiing: Shiffrin wins silver, Vonn misses out  

Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn had mixed results in the women’s combined. Vonn, two days after claiming bronze in the downhill, posted the best time in the downhill section tonight, while Shiffrin had some work to do after finishing sixth.

Shiffrin, who favors the slalom, sped down the bottom portion of the course to propel herself to a guaranteed medal position. Vonn, who skied the slalom last, saw her quest for gold abruptly end after she hooked one of the gates on the course, resulting in a DNF.

The two favorites of the men’s slalom, Marcel Hirscher and Henrik Kristofferson, both failed to finish their races, which left open a huge opportunity for the field. The man who stepped up was Sweden’s Andre Myhrer, who finished in 1:38.99.

Read the full women’s combined recap here 

Short Track: South Korea stunned in final short track day 

It was a disastrous day for South Korea. Their strategy for this event was to sit back for the majority of the race, and then strike in the last three laps.

Choi Minjeong, a huge favorite to win gold, found herself in fifth place heading into the final two laps and attempted to maneuver her way into the gold medal position. On the final turn, though, Choi tried to move inside the lane but ended up colliding with her compatriot Suk Shim-Hee, leaving the South Korean crowd silent.

Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands won the gold.

In the men’s relay 5000m, the Koreans were expected to win gold as well. There was a lot of contact in the race, but it was an untimely fall from a South Korean skater that ended their dreams – again, leaving the home crowd silent.

Hungary, China, and Canada took home the medals.

Full recap available here 

Biathlon: Belarus wins relay gold on windy evening

A very windy evening made shooting increasingly difficult for the athletes tonight. It reared its ugly head with Germany and Norway, two teams that were supposed to be the front runners for the gold medal. Laura Dahlmeier, who’s been excellent this whole fortnight, didn’t even have a chance to properly anchor Germany because they were already a minute behind before they reached her.

It ended up being Belarus with the gold, powered by four-time Olympic gold medalist Darya Domracheva in the final leg. Sweden and France finished second and third, respectively.

Nordic Combined: Germany powers to gold 

A strong cross-country performance gave Germany another medal in the nordic combined. Austria led entering the event, having finished first in the large hill portion, but Eric Frenzel and company crushed the competition in the 20km relay. The Germans won by a margin of 52 seconds. Norway and Austria came in second and third, respectively.

Full nordic combined recap available here

Miracle re-dub: USA win gold in Olympic hockey

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Feb. 22 has proven to be a day bringing good cheer to American hockey.

Exactly 38 years ago to this day, Herb Brooks guided the United States men’s hockey team to an improbable Olympic gold medal, putting an end to the Soviet Union’s four straight hockey golds.

History does have a way of repeating itself.

Tonight, the U.S. women’s team’s Olympic anguish turned to triumph after they beat arch-rivals Canada 3-2 in a shootout thriller. In doing so, the American women snapped Canada’s streak of four consecutive Olympic gold medals.

It was only four years ago when the Americans suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Canada in Sochi, losing in overtime. They wouldn’t allow themselves to forget it.

It was that memory that pushed Team USA in this tournament, who were destined to take on their bitter northern rivals. Like Herb Brooks’ team, the U.S. women’s team showed tremendous character to fight back in the third period when they were down 1-2, and again when they were down in the shootout.

A beautifully choreographed penalty shot from Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson, backed up by 20-year old Maddie Rooney’s game winning save, that sealed Team USA’s historic run.

Four years ago was Canada’s time. Tonight, it’s America’s time.