Eddy Alvarez
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Eddy Alvarez, Emily Scott make U.S. Olympic Short Track Team

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J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith dominated again, and two more skaters qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team at the short track trials Saturday.

Celski and Smith, who won the 1500m on Friday, swept 500m races Saturday to earn Olympic berths in a second distance. Eddy Alvarez
and Emily Scott finished second, again, on Saturday to clinch their first Olympic berths.

The U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Trials conclude with 1000m races at the Utah Olympic Oval on Sunday. Four more skaters will earn Olympic spots.

Alvarez is in line to join Celski in both the 500m and 1500m in Sochi given they both went one-two in the events the last two days. The U.S. has one other Olympic spot in those events. Who will fill it is yet to be determined.

Alvarez, 23, is one of three U.S. men’s skaters to win individual World Cup medals this season. “Eddy the Jet” is from Miami, the son of Cuban immigrants, and a former inline skater and all-conference shortstop at Salt Lake Community College.

He’s been skating with Celski since they were 6, dating to their inline days. Celski already has one Olympics under his belt. Now, Alvarez gets to join him in Sochi.

“It sounds pretty awesome, don’t you think?” Alvarez said on NBCSN before performing a special handshake with Celski.

Earlier Saturday, John-Henry Krueger scratched out of the 500m with the swine flu, which has had a recent outbreak in Salt Lake City. Krueger, a World Cup medalist this season, was a favorite to make the Olympic Team before the trials.

He was fourth in four- and nine-lap time trials Thursday but did not qualify for either A final in the 1500m on Friday. He could still earn a spot on the Olympic Team on Sunday, if he competes and fares well.

Whoever finishes first or second in the 1000m Sunday will make the Olympic Team. Whatever spots still available will then go to the next highest skaters in the overall standings.

That makes the next three highest men in the overall standings — 2010 Olympian Jordan MaloneKyle Carr and Chris Creveling — the favorites to secure the final three men’s Olympic berths Sunday.

One Olympic spot is left to be determined on the women’s team. Scott, 24, was unaware that all she had to do was finish second behind Smith in the final 500m race Saturday to clinch an Olympic berth.

“I’m speechless,” Scott said on NBCSN after learning she made her first Olympic Team. “I didn’t even know until my coach brought me over and congratulated me. It’s been a long time coming.”

The winner of the women’s 1000m standings Sunday will make the Olympic Team. If that winner is Smith or Scott, the second-place skater will make the Olympic Team. If Smith and Scott go one-two, in either order, the top skater in the overall distance standings will make the Olympic Team.

Here are the individual distance standings:

Men’s 500m — FINAL
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,920 (clinched Olympic berth)

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 (clinched Olympic berth)

Women’s 500m — FINAL
1. Jessica Smith — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 1,840 (clinched Olympic berth)

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 (clinched Olympic berth)

Here are the overall distance standings:

Men
1. J.R. Celski — 5,000 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 3,552 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Jordan Malone — 2,714
4. Kyle Carr — 2,389
5. Chris Creveling — 2,264

Women
1. Jessica Smith — 4,800 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 4,040 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Alyson Dudek — 3,360
4. Sarah Chen — 2,509
5. Kimberly Goetz — 1,559

Apolo Ohno makes TV analyst debut

French ice dancers break world record again

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French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron broke their own world record scores in the last major competition before the Olympics.

Papadakis and Cizeron totaled 203.16 points with 121.87 in Saturday’s free dance at the European Championships, both new bests, in Moscow.

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

The French go into the Olympics as favorites over Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won all three of their head-to-heads last season.

But the French finally overcame the 2010 Olympic champions Virtue and Moir at December’s Grand Prix Final.

Virtue and Moir rank No. 2 under an eight-year-old ice dance system with a personal best of 199.86 points.

Papadakis and Cizeron became the youngest world champions in ice dance in 40 years in 2015, then repeated as world champs in 2016.

Virtue and Moir returned after two years off for the 2016-17 season and went undefeated, including dethroning the French at worlds.

Three U.S. couples are the top contenders for the Olympic bronze medal.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White have not competed since becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champions in Sochi.

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MORE: NBC Olympics PyeongChang preview series on Netflix

Tonga flag bearer from Rio says he qualified for Winter Olympics

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Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless, oiled-up Tongan flag bearer from the Rio Games, said he qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics in cross-country skiing on Saturday.

“This was my last race possible, and we did it,” Taufatofua said in an interview with Olympic Channel, which also reported that he qualified. “This is a miracle.”

Taufatofua said he qualified at the final weekend of the Olympic qualifying period in Iceland, which is more than 9,000 miles from his home archipelago.

The last two events before qualification ends were Saturday’s freestyle race and a classic race scheduled for Sunday. Saturday’s results have not been posted yet.

Taufatofua completed a journey this season that included races in Colombia, Turkey, Poland and Armenia.

Taufatofua said he had seven chances to qualify for PyeongChang before Saturday and failed in all of them, finishing last each time (The official results show Taufatofua beating skiers from Malaysia and Mexico in some of these races.).

Taufatofua scrambled to make it to Iceland from Croatia this week. He said his group drove three days through a blizzard, an avalanche closing off the road at one point.

“People don’t see the hard work that goes behind,” he said. “They just see the shiny guy that walks with the flag.”

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his viral appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

He announced in December 2016 that he was switching to cross-country skiing in a bid for PyeongChang.

Cross-country, while a physically taxing pursuit, is one of the easier Winter Olympic sports to gain qualification for athletes from nations without much Winter Games history.

“I decided to find the hardest sport possible because I needed a new challenge,” Taufatofua said. “The goal was to do it one year, and we did it.”

Taufatofua debuted at the 2017 World Championships and was 153rd of 156 finishers in the 1.6km sprint freestyle.

It took Taufatofua 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds to complete the course in Lahti, Finland, which was about 10,000 miles from Tonga. The top qualifier clocked 3:11.72.

How will he dress at the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony, where outdoor temperatures are likely to be below freezing?

“One step at a time,” Taufatofua said. “Right now, I just want to go and party. I destroyed myself just to get here.”

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary.

Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

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VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics

I raced through 5 countries in the last 24hrs to try and get to my race in Croatia. I sat in a taxi for 6 hrs driving through Armenia into Georgia in the middle of the night. I sat on the front seat of the @turkishairlines plane, sprinted through the airport and snuck through the business class fast transit lane and somehow managed to arrive at the gate 15 min before departure for my flight to Croatia. Once there I found that @turkishairlines had shut the gate early even after their delayed initial flight from Georgia, leaving me stranded. After remembering a scene from a James Bond movie, I pressed all the buttons on the aerobridge door to see if I could somehow open it and sprint down to the connecting flight, unfortunately that didn’t work, and luckily I didn’t get arrested. So here I am sitting at Istanbul airport missing the race that could have possibly gotten me to the Olympics. It was always going to be a long shot but I had to give it a shot and I did. Soo many times in life we will get disappointed. When this happens I have two options. I can sit on that chair crying about what could have been and how unfair life is…. or I can go and find some good quality chocolate, pull out my notepad and start planning “what’s next”— I always did like chocolate…

A post shared by Pita Taufatofua (Pita T) (@pita_tofua) on