Sochi, Russia • J.R. Celski could only shake his head.
"That’s short-track," is the familiar refrain.
The short-track speedskater who lives in Salt Lake City just missed the podium in the 1,500 meters at the Sochi Olympics on Monday, undone by a rival’s fall that forced him to ease up just enough to keep him from contending in the final three laps at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
He finished fourth.
"It happens to everybody, really," he said. "Sometimes you’re on the good side of it, and sometimes you’re on the bad."
Four years ago, Celski won a bronze medal in the 1,500 at the Vancouver Games after two Koreans crashed in front of him on the final lap. But this time, he was on the other end, part of a disappointing day for U.S. Speedskating.
Celski was the only American man to reach the final of the 1,500 — Canada’s Charles Hamelin won the race, then leaped over the crash pads to kiss his girlfriend — while Emily Scott of West Jordan was the only U.S. woman to advance out of the heats at 500 meters. Top medal threat Jessica Smith, also of West Jordan, crashed out.
Across the street at Adler Arena, things weren’t any better.
None of the four men racing the 500 meters in long-track came close to the podium.
Shani Davis finished 24th, Tucker Fredricks finished 26th, and Mitch Whitmore finished 27th. Brian Hansen withdrew from the second of two heats to prepare for his future events, after finishing 33rd in the first heat.
None of the men was favored to reach the podium, but Salt Lake City’s Fredricks and Park City’s Whitmore were thought to have an outside shot. Michel Mulder won the race by 0.012 seconds in a two-run combined time of 1:09.392 to lead a Dutch sweep.
"I don’t know what to say," Fredricks said. "I wish I could have performed better."
Expectations for the Americans will be much higher in the 1,000 and 1,500, where both Davis and Hansen are expected to contend for gold. Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe are top contenders in those distances, too, while Richardson also has a good shot at a medal in the 500.
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