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2014 U.S. Olympic news: Smith, Celski claim first two short track team berths

J.R. Celski snagged the first spot on the U.S. men's 2014 short track Olympic team by winning the 1,500 meter event at the Jan. 3 Olympic trials.
J.R. Celski snagged the first spot on the U.S. men's 2014 short track Olympic team by winning the 1,500 meter event at the Jan. 3 Olympic trials.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Short track speed skaters Jessica Smith and J.R. Celski successfully claimed the first two spots up for grabs on the sport's 2014 U.S. Olympic team by earning the highest cumulative point totals during the women's and men's 1,500 meter events at the Olympic trials in Salt Lake City on Jan. 3.

After winning the Jan. 2 time trials in both the 500 meter and 1,000 meter distances and scoring 500 points for her efforts, Smith continued to dominate the competition Jan. 3 by posting the best time during the first of two runs of the 1,500 meter distance. The A Final victory added a whopping 1,000 points to her score and bettered the cumulative total of second-place skater Emily Scott by a near-insurmountable 300 points entering the final race.

She continued her dominance with a seemingly effortless skate to earn a spot in the evening's second A-final. Although she finished her final race second to Scott, her cumulative point total of 2,800 was high enough to give her the berth over Scott, who notched 2,600 points of her own.

Although she owns an impressive 12 World Cup medals, the trip to Sochi will be Smith's first Olympic Games experience, as she narrowly missed the cut in 2010. Two other women will eventually join Smith on the ladies' team.

Celski, who took two bronze medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games, also turned in a strong set of performances, winning both the time trials as well as both 1,500 meter A Final races. He skated a particularly impressive second semifinal heat, which saw him fall to the rear of the pack before surging forward in dominant fashion during the latter laps. Like Smith, he led nearest competitor Chris Creveling by 300 points entering his last race of the evening, which he won handily over second-place finisher Eddy Alvarez.

Four other competitors will join Celski on the men's team, bringing the total number of skaters on the U.S. short track Olympic team to eight.

Short track speed skating action at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games kicks off Feb. 10.