Olympic bronze medalist and world-record holder J.R. Celski expected to finish the season at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships. Newcomer Chris Creveling only hoped to be there.
Both speedskaters will try to cap successful years with medals at the season-ending meet, which starts Friday in Debrecen, Hungary.
Celski, 22, already has a national championship, six World Cup medals and a world record and hopes to carry that momentum through this weekend.
“It was a very consistent season for me,” said Celski, who holds the world record in the 500 and is also expected to contend for a medal in the 1000. “I got a lot of good results and I’m happy with it. But I really just focused on (the World Championships) this year and I really just wanted to see how I fared over all distances with everybody else. This is a big one.”
Celski is excited to be back at the World Championships after missing last year’s meet because of an ankle injury, which Celski said is no longer a problem.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel healthy and confident.”
Celski, a two-time bronze medalist at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, set a world record in the 500 at the season’s first World Cup event in Calgary. His 39.973 seconds was the sport’s first sub-40 time. He won three races at the national championships and knows how important this weekend can be.
“It’s one year to go until the (Sochi 2014 Winter) Olympics and all the top guys are here, so you’re basically comparing yourself and then seeing where you fare up against everybody else going into next season. I definitely want to carry this momentum into next year and I have high expectations of myself. I want to prove to myself I can be the best at this sport.”
Creveling also hopes this weekend’s meet will be a launching point for a run at the Sochi Winter Games. But first, Creveling, 26, is eager to finish his breakout season against the world’s best competition.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Creveling said. “(Competing at the World Championships) was kind of a hope. Just making the World Cup team was a great step (this year).”
Creveling, a four-time World Team member for USA Inline Speed Skating, qualified for his first World Cup team on ice in September and earned a bronze medal in the men’s 5000 relay in his first competition in Calgary. He took second overall at the U.S. Short Track National Championships in December.
“I’m getting a feel for how other skaters are doing and finding out where I stand so that I can possibly improve on that next year going into the Olympics,” he said.
Celski and Creveling said the men’s team is coming together, and the World Cup relay bronze they earned with Travis Jayner and John-Henry Krueger is proof.
“We have a lot of young guys coming up,” Celski said. “I’m looking forward to next year and seeing what it brings for the team.”
Two-time defending national champion and Olympic bronze medalist Lana Gehring headlines the women’s team. Gehring earned the bronze in the 500m at last year’s World Championships at Shanghai, China, and the U.S. women took silver in the relay.