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Mix of old and new faces chasing Olympic short track berths

J.R. Celski J.R. Celski |  Photo: AP

By BETH HARRIS
December 14, 2017 02:23 PM

KEARNS, Utah (AP) — J.R. Celski and Katherine Reutter-Adamek are favorites heading into the U.S. short track speedskating trials. They're both trying to make one more Olympic team in careers that have been interrupted and, in Reutter-Adamek's case, cut short by injuries.

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Celski is the only man at the trials with Olympic experience, having won three medals over two games. He has endured injuries, including getting his thigh gashed by a skate blade at the 2010 trials, and come back each time. He anchored the U.S. team to a world record in the 5,000-meter relay last month in China.

"A lot of soul-searching has gone into it and a lot of drive," Celski said. "I've gained a lot of knowledge and experience about myself. That's what keeps me going, the chance to grow."

Reutter-Adamek came out of retirement last year with a goal of making another Olympic team. She won silver and bronze medals at the 2010 Games only to be derailed by chronic pain from a series of injuries that forced her to quit in 2013.

"It probably took two full years, but eventually I was pain-free," Reutter-Adamek said. "That was the first glimmer of hope for me."

The two veterans will be fighting off a group of younger rivals during the three-day trials beginning Friday at the Utah Olympic Oval to earn one of eight spots on the Olympic team.

Here are some things to know about the U.S. short track trials:

NEW FACES: On the men's side, Thomas Hong will be trying to return to his native country as a U.S. Olympian. The 20-year-old was born in South Korea and lived there for four years before moving to America. He was the youngest skater at the 2014 trials, where he finished 11th overall. He earned a silver medal at the short track junior world championships in the 500. "He's been phenomenal since he was a little kid," U.S. men's coach Anthony Barthell said. "Now he's getting the experience he needs with racing." On the women's side, Maame Biney burst onto the scene last year and won bronze in the 500 at the short track junior worlds. The 17-year-old is from Ghana and moved to the U.S. as a 5-year-old. "She's a natural talent, very powerful skater," Barthell said.

BAD MEMORIES: The U.S. is eager to atone for its disappointing showing four years ago in Sochi, Russia. The short track team earned one medal — silver — in eight Olympic events, and didn't get on the podium in the first seven races. Celski was part of the second-place men's 5,000 relay that helped the Americans avoid a shutout for the first time since 1998 in Nagano.

MAKING THE TEAM: The U.S. earned quota spots for five men and three women to compete in Pyeongchang based on results from four World Cup events this year. Three American men will compete in the 500 and 1,500 meters in South Korea, two in the 1,000 and a four-man team in the 5,000 relay. Three American women will skate in the 1,500, and two each in the 500 and 1,000. The U.S. did not qualify a team for the women's relay.

FROM SHORT TO LONG AND BACK AGAIN: Lana Gehring won a bronze in the 3,000 relay at the 2010 Games. She missed making the team in 2014 and switched to long-track speedskating for two years. Gehring returned to wild-and-wooly short track this year and set personal bests in the 500 and 1,000.

COACHING CHANGES: Four years ago, the U.S. short track program was embroiled in scandal. Head coach Jae Su Chun was accused by a dozen national team members of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. 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. The coach and his top assistant resigned and accepted a suspension through the Sochi Games. Barthell came on as men's short track national team coach 1 ½ years ago. Former Olympic medalist Alex Izykowski was promoted to women's national team coach at the same time.

Credits

By BETH HARRIS

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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