J.R. Celski retires after three Olympics, three medals in short track

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J.R. Celski, the top U.S. short track speed skater of the last decade, retired after three Olympics, where he combined for one silver and two bronze medals.

“I’ve contemplated for a long time,” said Celski, a 28-year-old from Federal Way, Wash., who now attends the University of Utah. “It’s a good time to move on and start a new chapter in my life. That’s where I’m at right now.

“I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it has, like I was going to be immune to the emotions that come along with retirement or something,” Celski said in a 1,500-word open letter. “I felt like I could just sneak out under the radar and carry on with the next chapter in my life. I don’t know how else to say it other than I needed to finally face the reality of things.”

Celski’s enduring story has to be his comeback from suffering a seven-inch-long, two-inch-deep gash in his left quad when he crashed at the September 2009 Olympic Trials.

His skate blade punctured his leg one inch from the femoral artery. Celski could see bone through the gash as he was lifted on a stretcher. He said he thought he might die. Sixty stitches closed the wound.

Less than five months later, Celski earned 1500m and relay bronze medals at his first Olympics in Vancouver.

“The most celebrated and inspirational stories told in this world are born out of struggle,” he wrote. “They are stories of man and woman’s ability to overcome some form of hardship, and go on to do something great. It shakes us to our core every time, without failure. It is the very thing that defines us as humans.”

After executive producing a documentary featuring Macklemore, Celski took another Olympic run for Sochi. He earned a relay silver in 2014 and finished fourth in the 1500m, missing a medal by six tenths of a second.

Celski ended his career last winter with a best finish in three PyeongChang events of fifth in the relay and an appearance at the world championships. He knew before the season that it would be his last — after enduring hip surgery and knee and back injuries in that Olympic cycle — but kept the decision private.

“The thing I’m going to miss most about short track is the dynamics of the sport,” said Celski, who picked up short track around age 12, after first skating inline at 3. “There’s so much you need to pay attention to in training and prepare yourself for. You can’t just be fast. You can’t just be strong. You can’t just be agile. You have to be multiple dimensions in the sport.”

Celski also earned eight world championships medals, the last coming in 2014 when he ranked second overall. He also held world records in the 500m (first man to break 40 seconds) and the 5000m relay.

Celski took one year off from the sport after both the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, but this break will be permanent. He’s studying business at Utah and will stay involved in the sport. His year-old, co-founded company, Nalza, produces speed skating equipment.

“I went into taking those years off after the Olympics previously kind of with the thought that I’d come back. This time it’s different. I guess it’s the only way I can describe it,” he said. “I don’t think as the Olympics get close it’s going to pull me back anymore. I feel like I’ve been through what I needed to go through. I’m really thankful to have competed as long as I have, skated alongside the teammates I had.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials set new dates in 2021 in Omaha

Olympic Swimming Trials
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The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, originally scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha, will now be June 13-20, 2021 at the same venue.

The Olympic Trials event schedule will remain the same across the 15-session, eight-day meet.

The top two finishers per individual event are in line to qualify for the Tokyo Games. Usually, the top six finishers in the 100m and 200m freestyles also qualify for relays.

Trials will be one week earlier in relation to the Olympics, which moved from July 24-Aug. 9, 2020 to July 23-Aug. 8, 2021.

As of Friday, 1,213 athletes have achieved the 2020 qualifying times to swim at trials. USA Swimming anticipates those swimmers will remain qualified for 2021. Updated trials qualifying standards will be released before swimming competition resumes.

Around 1,800 swimmers qualified to compete at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

Omaha, announced as host in May 2017, will hold the trials for a record fourth straight time.

The trials were first held at the CHI Health Center Center (then the Qwest Center) in 2008, after they were in Long Beach, Calif., in 2004 and Indianapolis in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

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Olympic triathlon champion to do Ironman at home

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German Jan Frodeno announced on April 1 that he wanted to complete an Ironman triathlon at home. Turns out he wasn’t joking.

Frodeno, the 2008 Olympic champion and three-time Ironman Kona world champion, plans to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a marathon on Saturday, all at his home in Girona, Spain, to fundraise for hospital workers fighting the coronavirus.

“If you would have said this to me 10 years ago, I would have called you insane but special times call for special measures,” was posted on Frodeno’s Instagram. “The idea is not to race, nor is it a call for you to try this at home. It’s about showing that you can do a lot of things in your own four walls, despite restrictions.”

Frodeno said he wants to complete the Ironman between sunrise and sunset. Shouldn’t be a problem. Last year, Frodeno won Kona in 7:51:13 to break the course record.

The event is set to be live streamed on Frodeno’s Facebook page.

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