Injury derails J.R. Celski's title chase

KEARNS, Utah -- Two-time Olympic bronze medalist J.R. Celski won't have the chance to skate for an individual world championship this year because of an ankle injury.

Celski tried Friday to give it a go during the U.S. National Championships in short track at the Utah Olympic Oval but clearly was not healed from the injury suffered in a three-skater crash during a December World Cup event in Japan.

"It's a bummer, but in the long run, this is not that important of a meet to risk (further) injury," Celski said Friday.

He still has dreams of competing next season and at the Sochi Olympics.

He started the race Friday just so he can keep alive hopes of racing in the relay at worlds.

There's a chance he could be chosen Sunday for a discretionary spot on the U.S. World Cup team and compete in the relay. But that is up to the five-member selection committee.

Celski, who didn't want to go into details about the injury, called it an unfortunate turn of events.

"I was on the bottom of the pile and came out the unlucky one," he said of the Dec. 4 crash in Nagoya, where he had won 1,500 silver earlier in the competition.

It's not the first injury for Celski, and not the most serious.

At the U.S. trials leading up to the 2010 Olympics, Celski's left thigh was sliced open by a skate blade during a high-speed crash. The cut was six inches wide and two inches deep, and would require 60 stitches once he could remove the skate.

Fortunately the blade missed a main artery and cut only muscle.

He won two bronze medals in Vancouver five months later.

"He's been through a near-death injury," mother Sue Celski said Friday. "Hopefully this will be it as far as injuries for his lifetime as an athlete."

Celski didn't skate last year, taking a year off after the Olympics to hit the road as a pseudo groupie, following Seattle-area hip-hop musicians on tour for a 90-minute documentary set to debut at film festivals this year.

During the time away, he said he developed a second love for the sport that he hadn't felt before. He came back strong, with World Cup silver and bronze medals this season before the crash.

"Before I left, I was just kind of that kid out there having fun, doing what I did best and didn't really take it seriously outside of the rink," he said in October. "Now, coming back, I want to do everything right. I want to be consistent for the next three years and know I can be the best in the world."

He still has that desire; he'll just have to wait until next year.

"I will always have that as long as I skate," Celski said.