Winter sports: Gehring, Celski shine as short-track national champions
Kearns • If only Lana Gehring could figure out how to win that darn four-lap time trial.
For a second year in a row, the top American women's speedskater struggled in the time-trial race the Thursday prior to the U.S. Short-Track Speedskating Championships, but for the second year in a row, she made up for it in a very big way.
The 2011 U.S. national champion defended her title with relative ease Saturday at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, once again sweeping the four races over the course of two days at the U.S. Short-Track Speedskating Championships.
In the last two years, Gehring, 22, has won all eight of the women's races, which include the 1,500, 500, 1,000 and 3,000-meter events. The victory also gave her a berth to the 2013 World Championships in Hungary in March, and she qualified for the 1,500, 500 and 1,000 events on the winter World Cup circuit.
"I take pride in every race," she said.
Gehring said she didn't have her eyes set on a weekend sweep she just wanted to win as many races as possible.
"That was a huge accomplishment for myself," she said, "because I didn't think I was going to be able to do it."
Gehring, who continues to train with embattled former U.S. Speedskating coach Jae Su Chun at the new club Salt Lake International, said she listened to his advice prior to racing Saturday. Her smile widened a little more when asked if there was any reason to gloat.
"I let my racing speak," she said. "That speaks volumes in my eyes, at least."
Chun, along with former U.S. assistant coach Jun Hyung Yeo, are currently under sanctions from coaching at the international level through the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, for their involvement in concealing a skate-tampering scandal involving American skater Simon Cho last season.
It was also a weekend to remember for 22-year-old J.R. Celski, who won his first U.S. short-track national championship. The skater, who set the world record for a 500-meter race in a World Cup race in Calgary, Alberta, in October, won the 1,500, 500 and 3,000-meter races at the Olympic Oval to earn the right to continue racing on the World Cup tour, as well as a spot in Hungary with Gehring.
"I was excited to take that title this year," he said.
Celski, who won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, recently recovered from a head injury suffered during a World Cup race in Nagoya, Japan, in early December and was able to bounce right back.
"I've just never dealt with one before," he said, "so I wanted to be extra cautious about it and make sure it was OK."
Asked if he was hesitant going into this weekend's races, Celski said he knew what was at stake and that was enough motivation to try to once again qualify for the World Cup and the world championships both of which he did.
"I was all for it," he said. "I've dealt with worse before. It was a good weekend."
American female speedskaters joining Gehring on the winter World Cup circuit are Jessica Smith, Alyson Dudek, Emily Scott and Sarah Chen. Fellow U.S. male skaters joining Celski on the World Cup circuit are Chris Creveling, who won the men's 1,000-meter race Saturday, Jeff Simon, Eddy Alvarez and Travis Jayner.
Storylines Short-track wins
O Lana Gehring wins her second straight U.S. women's short-track national championship.
• J.R. Celski wins the U.S. men's short-track national championship, winning three of four final races.
Short-Track National Championship standings
Women's overall (total points):
1. Lana Gehring (5,050)
2. Emily Scott (3,472)
3. Alyson Dudek (3,388)
1. J.R. Celski (4,560)
2. Chris Creveling (3,648)
3. Jeff Simon (2,979)