Kearns • JR Celski and Jessica Smith became the first two short-track speedskaters to clinch spots on the U.S. team for the first World Cup races of the upcoming season, by winning the 1,500 meters at the U.S. Short-Track Championships on Saturday at the Utah Olympic Oval.
The question is whether both will actually compete on the team.
Celski is among a dozen skaters who have filed formal complaints alleging a broad range of abuses by national-team coach Jae Su Chun, who has been suspended while U.S. Speedskating awaits the results of an investigation. The skaters want Chun and assistant coach Jun Hyung Yeo banned from coaching or traveling with the team to the World Cup races, and they might decline their rightful places on the team if the coaches remain in place.
An arbitration hearing on Oct. 8 will begin to resolve the case, if U.S. Speedskating does not act first upon completion of the investigation. The federation effectively has extended the amount of time the skaters have to decide whether to accept or decline spots on the World Cup team, allowing them time to learn the outcome of the case.
Smith is among a group of nine skaters who issued a statement defending the coach.
A reigning world silver medalist, Smith actually finished second to two-time world medalist and Olympic bronze medalist Lana Gehring in both of the two 1,500-meter races that comprised the overall competition at that distance.
But because Smith earlier won two time trials whose results also factor into the point standings at each individual distance, she was credited with the overall victory at 1,500 and the automatic berth onto the World Cup team that comes with it. Smith also won the women's 1,000 on Saturday.
Celski won the men's 1,500 on Saturday to clinch his spot, after crashing in the final at that distance on Friday. The Olympic bronze medalist also won the first men's 1,000 on Saturday, ahead of Kyle Carr and Jeff Simon. Carr also was third in the 1,500, behind Eduardo Alvarez.
"I am excited," Celski said. "I know that this year is going to be a good year. We have a lot of good, healthy and talented guys coming up, and I think we are going to be a force to reckon with around the world."
U.S. Short-Track Championships
At the Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns
1. JR Celski, 1:26.576; 2. Kyle Carr, 1:26.632; 3. Jeff Simon, 1:26.787.
1. Jessica Smith, 1:32.325; 2. Emily Scott, 1:32.410; 3. Alyson Dudek, 1:32.791.
1. JR Celski, 2:21.501; 2. Eduardo Alvarez, 2:22.356; 3. Kyle Carr, 2:22.535.
1. Lana Gehring, 2:26.763; 2. Jessica Smith, 2:26.925; 3. Emily Scott, 2:26.965.