With months of controversy and turmoil in their rearview mirrors, the United States short-track speedskating team hit the ice on Friday night and sent their first two skaters to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
In the men's 1500-meter short-track, it was J.R. Celski who, as expected, left the rest of the field in the dust, winning every heat in order to qualify for his second consecutive Winter Games. He captured two bronze medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games after returning from a devastating leg injury, and he will be a threat to once again reach the podium in Sochi.
For the women, Jessica Smith punched her ticket, but it didn't come without its share of drama at the end.
Entering the women's final heat, Smith needed just a second-place finish to guarantee her spot on the team. A finish of third or below would open the door for her primary rival Emily Scott to qualify with a victory.
As the race neared its conclusion, with Scott firmly in the lead, Smith slipped into third place behind Alyson Dudek. If the result held, Smith would have missed her chance to automatically, and expectedly, qualify.
But she was not to be denied.
Smith came through with a beautiful pass in the closing laps to secure her second-place finish and a trip to represent the United States in Sochi.