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Updated Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 09:31 PM

JR Celski of Federal Way wins U.S. short-track speedskating championship

By LYNN DeBRUIN
The Associated Press

KEARNS, Utah — A year ago, JR Celski of Federal Way barely could get to the start line at the U.S. short-track speedskating championships because of a painfully swollen broken ankle suffered at a World Cup event in Japan.

These days, Celski is good as gold, with a national championship to add to his list of accomplishments during a spectacular season.

Celski's victories in the 500, 1,500 and 3,000 meters, along with a fifth-place finish in the 1,000, helped the 22-year-old lock up the national title Saturday.

Celski won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Defending champion Lana Gehring of Glenview, Ill., took the women's title with victories in every event Friday and Saturday.

Both earned spots for the United States in the final two World Cups of the season and a chance to compete in the world championships in Hungary in March.

Jeff Simon, Travis Jayner, Chris Creveling, Ed Alvarez and Kyle Carr round out the men's World Cup team.

Jessica Smith, Alyson Dudek, Emily Scott, Sarah Chen and Kimberly Derrick complete the women's squad.

"It was hard not to compete (in this event last year), but it was the right thing to do. I honestly couldn't have skated because it was so painful," Celski said of the broken ankle and torn ligaments. "It was so swollen, I'm surprised I could fit it into my boot."

Celski laced up so he would be allowed to compete in the relays at the 2012 worlds.

Coming into nationals this year, he wasn't sure he would be able to compete after suffering a concussion earlier in the month at a World Cup event in Japan. He fell in the semifinals of the 1,500, slid into the boards and had his knee pop straight back at him into his eye socket.

"Same place, same rink, so I was worried about being able to get back in time for this one," Celski said.

"I never really dealt with a head injury before and from what the doctors said, the only thing to really cure a concussion was rest. I trained and rested. Those were the only things I focused on."

The next World Cup event starts Feb. 1 in Sochi, Russia — site of the 2014 Winter Games.

"It's always good to go and test the waters," Celski said. "We went to Vancouver at the end of 2008 and got to skate at the (site) that was going to be the Olympics.

"So it was really cool just to see that, experience that and know what you're going to get yourself into."


RICK BOWMER / AP
Federal Way's JR Celski, shown competing Friday, won the national title Saturday at the short-track championships.




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