J.R. Celski watches Seahawks win Super Bowl with Heiden, Holcomb

J.R. Celski
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SOCHI, Russia — Noted Seahawks fan J.R. Celski shared his dreary-eyed Super Bowl excitement with a pair of Olympic champions.

Celski, a two-time Olympic medalist short track speed skater from Federal Way, Wash., woke up at 3:30 a.m. Monday and watched the Seahawks take a 22-0 lead after two quarters on a stream in the Sochi Olympic Village.

He then took a halftime nap and watched the finishing touches of a 43-8 blowout of the Denver Broncos on a Slingbox provided by 2010 Olympic champion bobsledder Steven Holcomb.

They were joined by US Speedskating team doctor Eric Heiden, the five-time 1980 Olympic champion.

“I’m still kind of recovering right now from it,” Celski said following a weight session and on-ice practice at the Iceberg Skating Palace. “It was not a stressful game at all.

“I wish it was more exciting, but I’m happy with the outcome. It kind of made me question if it was worth getting up that early,” he joked.

A fourth person joined them, a U.S. team staff member and Broncos fan. She was more emotional about it than any of the men, including the soft-spoken Heiden.

“It was interesting watching [Heiden],” Celski said. “He didn’t really react to anything. I think he wanted the ‘Hawks to win.”

Celski said he nearly fell asleep during the second quarter, abstaining from coffee, before resting his eyes and missing the Bruno Mars halftime show.

Altogether, Celski said he got seven hours of sleep.

“He woke up, he got ready, put some makeup on,” teammate and longtime friend Eddy Alvarez said. “He looks good.”

Celski, 23, has been a Seahawks fan since he “was out the womb” and remembered the disappointment in 2006 when they lost Super Bowl XL to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Actually, at that time I was disappointed with my skating, too,” Celski said. “I took a year after that off. I was on a downhill slope. I wasn’t having fun with it. I’ve been watching the rise of the ‘Hawks for the past couple years, seeing things come into motion and players being placed on the team. It’s funny them winning the Super Bowl now. I hope it’s mirrored in my performance [in Sochi].”

Celski plans to march in the Opening Ceremony on Friday and opens competition in the 1500m next Monday.

American short track skater now competes for Italy

French Open: Iga Swiatek rolls toward possible Coco Gauff rematch

Iga Swiatek
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Iga Swiatek reached the French Open third round without dropping a set, eyeing a third Roland Garros title in four years. Not that she needed the help, but Swiatek’s immediate draw is wide open after the rest of the seeds in her section lost.

Swiatek dispatched 102nd-ranked American Claire Liu 6-4, 6-0 on Thursday, the same score as her first-round win. She gets 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu of China in the round of 32.

The other three seeds in Swiatek’s section all lost in the first round, so the earliest that the world No. 1 could play another seed is the quarterfinals. And that would be No. 6 Coco Gauff, who was runner-up to Swiatek last year.

Gauff plays her second-round match later Thursday against 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher. Gauff also doesn’t have any seeds in her way before a possible Swiatek showdown.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Swiatek, who turned 22 on Wednesday, came into this year’s French Open without the invincibility of a year ago, when she was 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury, but said it wasn’t serious. That diagnosis appears to have been spot-on through two matches this week, though her serve was broken twice in the first set of each match.

While the men’s draw has been upended by 14-time champion Rafael Nadal‘s pre-event withdrawal and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev‘s loss in the first round, the top women have taken care of business.

Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, American Jessica Pegula and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan also reached the third round without dropping a set.

Though all of them have beaten Swiatek in 2023, the Pole remains the favorite to lift the trophy a week from Saturday. She can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

She can also become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

Swiatek doesn’t dwell on it.

“I never even played Serena or Monica Seles,” she said. “I’m kind of living my own life and having my own journey.”

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Penny Oleksiak to miss world swimming championships

Penny Oleksiak
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Seven-time Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak of Canada will miss July’s world swimming championships because she does not expect to be recovered enough from knee and shoulder injuries.

“The bar that we set was, can she be as good as she’s ever been at these world championships?” coach Ryan Mallette said in a press release. “We just don’t feel like we’re going to be ready to be 100 percent yet this summer. Our focus is to get her back to 100 percent as soon as possible to get ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

Oleksiak, who owns the Canadian record of seven Olympic medals (across all sports), missed Canada’s trials meet for worlds two months ago due to the injuries. She was still named to the team at the time in hope that she would be ready in time for worlds.

The 22-year-old returned to competition last month at a Mare Nostrum meet in Barcelona, after which she chose to focus on continued rehab rather than compete at worlds in Fukuoka, Japan.

“Swimming at Mare Nostrum was a checkpoint for worlds, and I gave it my best shot,” Oleksiak said in the release. “We reviewed my swims there, and it showed me the level I want to get back to. Now I need to focus on my rehab to get back to where I want to be and put myself in position to be at my best next season.”

Oleksiak had knee surgery last year to repair a meniscus. After that, she developed a left shoulder injury.

In 2016, Oleksiak tied for Olympic 100m freestyle gold with American Simone Manuel. She also earned 100m butterfly silver in Rio and 200m free bronze in Tokyo, along with four relay medals between those two Games.

At last year’s worlds, she earned four relay medals and placed fourth in the 100m free.

She anchored the Canadian 4x100m free relay to silver behind Australia at the most recent Olympics and worlds.

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