KEARNS, Utah — Emily Scott competed for a spot in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games four years ago and said the experience was a blast.
She was just three meets into a young career and being that close to an Olympic Winter Games had her wanting more.
That's why she stuck with it, and it's why she is where she is now: Headed to Sochi after a formidable showing in the 500-meter races at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Short Track Speedskating Saturday.
"I worked hard for it," said the Missouri native. "It's crazy that it's actually happening."
Which is why, even though she's come such a long way in a relatively short career time, Scott couldn't help but give an exasperated look at her coach and try to read body language after a final, frantic loop at Utah Olympic Oval.
Not winning the final outing, finishing second, Scott thought she may not have done enough to need a passport quite yet.
"I thought I was in trouble for not winning the race," Scott said. "But he congratulated me. I said, 'Are you serious?'"
Scott gained fame last summer when USA Today published an article about her financial struggles and, as a result, Scott’s crowdfunding efforts turned into an overnight success with more than 680 people donating $48,000.
Scott and Eddy Alvarez both secured nominations to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Short Track Speedskating Team with their second-place performances in the 500 and Friday’s 1,500.
J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith have swept the first two trial distances with the 1,000 to be wrapped up Sunday.
"We only have two spots for that 1,000, and I want one of those spots," Smith said.
Smith qualified for her second Sochi event by winning the 500-meter event at trials, and is the favorite for the sweep.
Going into the 1,000-meter races Sunday, Smith and Celski have retained the No. 1-ranked positions, respectively, for overall points classification.
Scott, like Smith, said she wants to finish strong. There's no point letting up now.
"If I put the time and effort into it, that could be me," Scott said she figured about her own future four years ago. "Each year, I've progressively gotten better."
|Eddy Alvarez celebrates on the podium after placing second in the
men's 500-meter during the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for
Short Track Speedskating on Jan. 4, 2014 in Kearns, Utah.
Alvarez figured the same. The son of Cuban immigrants, Alvarez grew up inline skating in Miami and has been friends and competitors with Celski since age 6. Alvarez had about 30 supporters inside the cold rink, using that fuel to find his stride after a series of injuries had him down and out.
"All I could think about was those nights where I couldn't sleep," Alvarez said. "I basically hated life. I was in a hole. I had no hope whatsoever. It's been a long road, but well worth it."
Alvarez said the 500 is his strongest event, and "it was great to execute my plan."
Perhaps the wildest news out of Saturday's event was world cup medalist John-Henry Krueger not competing. He had fallen twice during Friday's 1,500-meter heats and there were reasons to be so off: The Pennsylvania native withdrew because of a swine flu diagnosis, the skater's mother told the Chicago Tribune.
Krueger filed papers that were expected to maintain his eligibility in case he felt good enough Sunday to race, and try to earn a spot in Sochi in the 1,000. There have been about 200 reports of the H1N1 virus, according to various media reports in the Salt Lake City area, and the flu has even claimed two lives.
Three more spots will be determined for the U.S. men on Sunday, while the women have just one available. The women didn't qualify a relay team for the first time since short track speedskating made its Olympic debut in 1992. All three U.S. women will compete in the 500 and 1,500 in Sochi, while only two will enter the 1,000.
The men's 1,000 also will be a wild one: First and second places will make the team. The remaining athlete (or athletes, if Celski and/or Alvarez finish in the top two in the 1,000) will be selected using the overall distance ranking, determined by points earned during Thursday’s time trials and all three distance finals.
On the women’s side, the winner of the 1,000 will join Scott and Smith — or the third-ranked skater in the overall classification if one of those two claims first place.