Celski and Smith lead US short track trials

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 2, 2014 at 8:42 pm •  Published: January 2, 2014
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KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Favorites J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith swept both of the men's and women's time trials at the U.S. Olympic short track trials.

Of course, it is short track and anything goes in the wild and wooly sport known as roller derby on ice.

Celski won the opening nine-lap time trial in 1 minute, 21.667 seconds Thursday at the Utah Olympic Oval. He came back later to claim the four-lap trial in 36.269 seconds.

"Very happy with the times," he said. "It will be fun to get back in there and race with these guys."

With short track star Apolo Anton Ohno retired and doing TV commentary, the spotlight is focused squarely on Celski, who won a pair of bronze medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

"It's a little different for sure," Celski said about Ohno's absence from the ice. "The level has raised over the past four years."

Seeking her first Olympic berth after missing out four years ago, Smith won the women's nine-lapper in 1:28.117 and followed up with a win in the four-lapper with a time of 39.317. The former inline skater from Melvindale, Mich., finished one spot out of an Olympic position in 2010.

Katherine Reutter, who won a silver and a bronze in Vancouver, was forced to retire last year because of injuries at 24, leaving a major void on the women's side.

Smith liked her results, especially in the nine-lapper where she recorded a personal best by nearly 2 seconds.

"I'm just looking forward to the rest of the weekend, try to keep it together and focused," she said. "Win one or win three, it doesn't matter."

A skater who wins any of the three individual events is guaranteed an Olympic berth.

Both Celski of Federal Way, Wash., and Smith earned a total of 1,000 points for their two victories, putting them atop their respective overall classification standings after the first of four days of competition.

Smith is coached by Jae Su Chun, who was accused by a dozen national team members of physical, emotional and verbal abuse in fall 2012. He also was alleged to have ordered speedskater Simon Cho to sabotage the skates of a Canadian rival.

Chun denied all allegations, and other members of the team came to his defense. Chun is serving a two-year suspension through October. He's allowed to be in the stands during the trials, but not inside the racing area. Smith relies on another coach when she's on the ice.



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