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

Apolo Ohno adjusts to TV analyst role

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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