J.R. Celski

J.R. Celski, Jessica Smith make U.S. Olympic Team at short track trials

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J.R. Celski cruised to victory. Jessica Smith crossed the finish line in second. But both raised their arms at the end of the second day of the U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Trials on Friday night.

Celski qualified for his second Olympic team and Smith made her first by winning the men’s and women’s 1500m standings at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah. Celski swept both races. Smith won her first and finished runner-up in the second.

The U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Trials continue with two men’s and women’s 500m races each Saturday (12 p.m. ET, 4-5:30 p.m. NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Short track trials preview, schedule

“It’s an honor to be representing the United States again,” Celski said on NBCSN. “I’ve been waiting four years for this.”

Celski, 23, won both 1500m races after sweeping four- and nine-lap time trials Thursday. He’s going to his second Olympics after winning two bronze medals in 2010, five months after slicing his left thigh open in a crash at the last Olympic trials.

“It’s definitely, naturally, a little bit more pressure than last time,” Celski said. “I take it more serious than I did last time as well. If I’m properly prepared, then I think my results are going to show that I’m ready. Take those nerves off.”

Celski beat Chris Creveling in the first 1500m race and Eddy Alvarez in the second. Creveling was penalized in the second, allowing Alvarez to move into second place overall in the distance and all but secure his first Olympic berth.

Celski won’t let up the next two days.

“There’s two more distances left, and I want to qualify my spots in all of them,” he said. “The pressure’s off a little bit, but definitely a lot to prove, still.”

Smith only needed to finish second in the second of two 1500m A finals to clinch her first Olympic berth. Emily Scott won that second race, but Smith was right behind, knowing she had done enough to qualify for Sochi.

She then jumped over barrier padding to high-five her coach, Jae Su Chun, who was suspended and then resigned as the US Speedskating National Team coach in October 2012 after being accused by some skaters of physical and emotional abuse and being wrapped up in the Simon Cho skate-tampering scandal.

“It’s been a long road, a long journey,” Smith said on NBCSN. “A proud moment for me and my coach, Jae Su Chun, and all the other coaches before.”

Smith, 30, just missed making the 2010 Olympic Team and was named an alternate for Vancouver.

“It definitely gave me motivation, but I don’t think I needed the motivation to want to make the Olympic team and represent my country and wear the stars and stripes,” Smith said. “That’s enough motivation in itself.”

Five men and three women will make the Olympics by the time races conclude Sunday. Other Olympic team contenders ran into trouble Friday.

World Cup medalist John-Henry Krueger crashed in both 1500m semifinals. Kyle Carr and 2010 Olympian Travis Jayner crashed in the first 1500m final.

Skaters’ time trial results from Thursday are added to their results from races Friday, Saturday and Sunday in points standings for all three distances (500m, 1000m, 1500m) and in one overall standing. A time trial is worth 20 percent of a skater’s standing 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 standing, 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 standings.

Here are the individual distance standings:

Men’s 500m
1. J.R. Celski — 500
2. Chris Creveling — 400
3. Eddy Alvarez — 320
4. John-Henry Krueger — 256
5. Jordan Malone — 205

Men’s 1000m
1. J.R. Celski — 500
2. Chris Creveling — 400
3. Eddy Alvarez — 320
4. John-Henry Krueger — 256
5. Jordan Malone — 205

Men’s 1500m — FINAL
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,632

Women’s 500m
1. Jessica Smith — 500
2. Emily Scott — 400
3. Alyson Dudek — 320
4. Sarah Chen — 256
5. Katherine Ralston — 205

Women’s 1000m
1. Jessica Smith — 500
2. Emily Scott — 400
3. Alyson Dudek — 320
4. Kimberly Goetz — 256
5. Sarah Chen — 205

Women’s 1500m — FINAL
1. Jessica Smith — 2,300 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 2,200

Here are the overall distance standings:

Men
1. J.R. Celski — 3,000
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,952
3. Chris Creveling — 1,928
4. Jordan Malone — 1,562
5. Kyle Carr — 1,237
6. Travis Jayner — 968.5

Women
1. Jessica Smith — 2,800
2. Emily Scott — 2,600
3. Alyson Dudek — 1,920
4. Sarah Chen — 1,485
5. Lana Gehring — 969

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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