SOCHI, Russia – J.R. Celski stayed on track for two medals Thursday at the Winter Olympics, even though his U.S. 5,000-meter relay team slid right off it at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
But teammate Eddy Alvarez’s fall, and subsequent smash into the padded wall, was ruled to be caused by a Korean skater’s glove impeding his path as both crashed.
The U.S. was, therefore, automatically advanced to the five-team Feb. 21 final.
Earlier, Celski advanced to the quarterfinals in the 1,000 by gliding to victory in his heat.
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But the 5,000 relay, in which Celski was part of the U.S. bronze-medal team at the 2010 Vancouver Games, was a key event for the U.S. and making the final was important.
When Alvarez was tripped, there was a period of uncertainty that quickly turned to relief after officials looked at video and determined Alvarez had been interfered with.
“The moments between the fall and the call, there was a lot of doubt and disbelief that we didn’t make it into the final,” said Celski, 24, from Federal Way, Wash. “But our coaches and Eddy were pretty confident that his foot got swept out from under him and, fortunately, when we looked at the replay we saw that happen and we got advanced because of that. So we’re very happy.”
Celski placed fourth Monday in the 1,500 meters, a distance in which he won the bronze medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
After that near miss, he was pleased to find fortune in what is always a challenging juncture.
“We’re happy to be in the final,” he said. “The semi is always a tough race, when you have these teams that have to get top two to get in the final. Really, the medals are won in the finals.”
Besides Korea, another top team, Canada, didn’t make the final.
“I think there’s a great chance for us to go out there and win,” Celski said of next week’s relay final.