2014 Men's Short-track Speedskating
Men's 1,500-meter short-track speedskating is one of the most contentious events at the Winter Olympics. The high-speed event, coupled with perilously tight turns, all but guarantees exhilarating finishes and unexpected outcomes.
The event is contested for 13.5 laps over a track that measures 60 meters in length by 30 meters in width. The circumference is 111.12 meters.
The athletes blaze around the track in tight proximity, taking the sharp turns at a staggering 45-degree angle. They rely on the tips of their gloved fingers for balance as well as Olympic-caliber core strength. The finishes are often close, and because of that, athletes are aggressive as they fight for position, which makes short-track speedskating a thrilling event to watch.
Since many of the speedskating events will be held in the wee hours of the morning in Eastern Standard Time, be sure to check out the television schedule so you do not miss a moment of the action, and set your DVR accordingly.
4:45 a.m. ET, Men's 1,500-meter heats
6:10 a.m. ET, Men's 1,500-meter semifinals
7:15 a.m. ET, Men's 1,500-meter finals
In addition, live streams will be available at www.nbcolympics.com.
There is no Olympic qualifying event for the 1,500 meters. Instead, they go straight to the medal round based on World Cup standings. The event, on paper at any rate, features a wide open, competitive group with strong representatives from around the globe.
Headlining the star-studded field is the top-ranked Charles Hamelin. He will be proudly carrying the colors of Canada. This Quebec-native took home the gold in the 500-meter event at the Vancouver Games as well as won the 5,000-meter relay.
With Hamelin topping the World Cup standings with 22,096 points, the hometown favorite Viktor Ahn is nipping at his heels with 20,800 in third. This group of men, along with Team USA's J.R. Celski, have been a consistent, competitive group leading up to Sochi.
Without Ohno, Celski will carry the torch for Team USA
Can Team USA overcome a rocky 2013?
Though Team USA lost some of its star power with the retirement of Apolo Ohno after the Vancouver Games, J.R. Celski will try to step into the limelight on his own for the familiar red, white and blue.
Celski has returned with a vengeance after a third-place finish in Vancouver, and he, along with the entire United States speedskating team, has something to prove. Last February, the Chicago Tribune unleashed a scathing examination into an organization that was on the brink of imploding. Scandals and discontent rocked the group and threatened to derail any hope of a Team USA medal at Sochi.
Since then, the ship has righted itself, and the men's 1,500-meter may be the brightest chance for a medal in short-track speedskating.
How can former gold-medal winner Viktor Ahn be considered a sleeper in this event? Consider that the cards are stacked against him after having battled injury and an international move.
Korean-born Ahn will be the big hope for Russia in the event after taking home the gold in 2006, though then he competed under his given name of Ahn Hyun-Soo.
After winning three gold medals in Turin for South Korea, serious injuries knocked him out of contention in 2008 and kept him from qualifying in 2010. A year later, he became a citizen of Russia with the Olympics in mind and changed his name to Viktor (appropriate for someone seeking Olympic gold). Though he has been away from the Olympic stage for some time, he is no stranger to the medal podium.
With Han-Bin making his Olympic debut against a field of veterans, the 25-year-old South Korean could get unwisely overlooked in favor of some more recognizable names. His World Cup form has been competitive, and by all accounts, he warrants major consideration in this field.
While the opposition may be tough, expect to see J.R. Celski make a bold bid for an Olympic gold medal. He spent the duration of the Vancouver Games in the shadow of the great Apolo Ohno, and this time around is coming into the Games stronger than before.
Four years ago, his bid for the Vancouver Winter Olympics was nearly derailed. An accident on the ice at the U.S. trials nearly cost him not only his chance at Olympic glory but very nearly his life. The blade of his skate bruised his femoral artery. He was fortunate to live through the incident and even more fortunate to make the 2010 Games.
Celski seems poised to have a career-defining performance in the Sochi Games.
The overriding theme of the men's short-track speedskating event this year is one of redemption. With former gold medalist Viktor Ahn trying to return from an extended hiatus and Team USA trying to prove the troubles of recent years are behind them, this event should deliver on all of the hype.
Here are my predictions for the men's 1,500-meter short-track speedskating competition.
Gold: J.R. Celski (USA)
Silver: Viktor Ahn (RUS)
Bronze: Charles Hamelin (CAN)