SOCHI, Russia – J.R. Celski had just endured the most difficult of Olympic finishes, but there was little trace of disappointment in his post-game mood.
He was defeated but he wasn’t done.
There are more races left for the 23-year-old from Federal Way, Wash., after he finished fourth in short-track speed skating’s 1,500 meters at the Iceberg Skating Palace Monday.
Celski had earned bronze in the 1,500 at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, where he also was on a bronze-medal-winning 5,000 relay.
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He’d inched ahead midway through the race. In the tight confines of short track, leads can be short lived.
“The race was slow enough to where people kept moving up and up,” Celski said, “and, unfortunately, I was in a bad position on one of the corners and kind of got bumped and lost my momentum. That was around four go to. By the time that happened, the race had already picked up. It was hard to recover from that.”
Celski couldn’t close the gap that formed and finished in 2:15.624, nearly a half-second out of third. Canada’s Charles Hamelin won the gold.
“I came out here and gave it my best and, unfortunately, came up a little short, but I have three more events to compete in so there may be some medals in the future,” Celski said.
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He was the only 2010 medalist in the 1,500 competition, with South Korea’s Lee Jung-su and eight-time U.S. medalist Apolo Anton Ohno absent. It is Ohno’s title as top U.S. short-track speed skater that Celski came here to claim. Ohno is also from Federal Way.
Celski had finished second in his quarterfinal heat in 2:15.675, then coasted to a semifinal win in 2:21.603 aided by a fall from two South Korean skaters in front of him four laps from the finish.
Short track’s unpredictable nature allowed Celski to better accept not returning to the medal podium.
“I’m happy that I have this opportunity and I don’t take it for granted at all,” said Celski, who still has the 500, in which he has set the world record, 1,000 and 5,000 relay. “Any position I finish was awesome. It’s really a learning thing for me. I go out here and race and learn from it if I don’t win and enjoy it if I do.”
Tresolini writes for The News Journal of Wilmington, Del.