J.R. Celski and Team USA finally found the podium on Friday.
Four years after Celski, Apolo Ohno and co. took bronze in the 5,000-meter relay in Vancouver, the 23-year-old—often regarded as Ohno's heir apparent—led this year's group to another medal, landing in second place in the finals on Friday.
SportsCenter had the news:
USA team of Eddy Alvarez, J.R. Celski, Chris Creveling & Jordan Malone take silver in short-track speed skating 5000m relay.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2014
After winning 10 speedskating medals in 2010 (six on the short track), the Red, White and Blue had been awful in Sochi. Favorites and underdogs alike had come up short of the podium, but Celski, Eduardo Alvarez, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone bucked that trend on Friday.
Celski, who captured two bronze medals as a 19-year-old during his Olympics debut in Vancouver, finished fourth in the 1,500-meter individual race, crashed in the quarterfinals of the 1,000-meter and came in sixth in the 500-meter earlier on Friday.
The Americans were given a second life in this event last week. After Alvarez fell during the semifinals, it was ruled to be the fault of a South Korean skater, pushing the Americans through the final. The team took advantage of the mishap.
Back in January, Celski talked to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, about the "damage" he was going to do in Sochi: "I've gotten the experience, but this time is completely different for me. Mentally, physically, I'm healthy. I'm going to ride that momentum. I look forward to doing some damage over there."
If we've learned one thing about Celski, who won two medals in Vancouver just five months after falling during a race and slicing his leg open in a gruesome injury, it's that he's resilient.
He has the talent. Now he has the motivation. Don't expect this to be the last you hear of the young American.
Even though he was shut out in the individual events, Celski proved to be a vital cog in the relay team's silver-medal run. Looking ahead to the 2018 Winter Olympics, he should get another run at things, especially if this group remains intact. Its oldest member is Malone, who is 29.