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Krueger, Gehring earn Olympic spots at US short track trials

December 16, 2017

John-Henry Krueger reacts after winning the men's 1500-meter during the U.S.Olympic short track speedskating trials Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

KEARNS, Utah (AP) — John-Henry Krueger qualified for his first Olympic team and Lana Gehring made her second nearly eight years apart at the U.S. short track speedskating trials.

Krueger won the second 1,500-meter final after two-time Olympian J.R. Celski crashed with a lap to go on the first night of competition Friday.

“It’s definitely a lot of weight off the shoulders to know that I am on the team now,” Krueger said. “There’s a lot of work to be done. I still have to qualify spots in all the other individual distances, so it’s not time to party yet.”

Gehring swept the women’s 1,500 finals, both of which were marred by crashes involving some of the top skaters on the hockey-sized rink in the middle of the big Utah Olympic Oval.

The skaters went through the distance’s semifinal and final stages twice, earning points for their finishes in each race.

Celski won the first 1,500 final, with Krueger finishing second. In the second final, Krueger won and Ryan Pivirotto finished second. Celski was in third place when he crashed out of the 13 1/2-lap race.

“I think I hit a block is what my coach told me,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, for sure.”

Krueger leads the men’s standings with 1,800 points. Celski is second with 1,328 and Adam Callister third at 1,050.

On the women’s side, Gehring is headed to her second Olympics, having won a bronze in the 3,000 relay at the 2010 Vancouver Games. The 27-year-old skater switched to long track for a while before returning to her short track roots.

“I can’t be more pleased with my performance,” she said. “To get a double win, that’s very hard.”

She leads the women’s standings with 2,000 points. Kristen Santos is second at 1,440 and 2014 Olympian Jessica Kooreman is third at 1,210.

In the first women’s final, Maame Biney crashed with two laps to go and got penalized for taking out 2010 Olympian Katherine Reutter-Adamek. Biney, a 17-year-old born in Ghana, remains a threat to make the Olympic team.

In the second women’s final, Gehring, Santos and Reutter-Adamek went down together in the corner. Reutter-Adamek was disqualified for causing the crash and the referees decided to re-skate the race.

“I was a little riled up about it because I didn’t like why we fell,” Gehring said. “But it helped me to re-settle a little bit.”

Reutter-Adamek saw a hole going into the corner, but Gehring closed it up.

“I hate being a skater that causes trouble,” Reutter-Adamek said. “But to watch her win with that type of composure, I mean that’s speedskating at its best. Look how she picked herself back up and won that race. That’s composure.”

There was drama in the do-over, too. Kooreman was penalized for kicking her skate across the finish line as Gehring crossed first. Kooreman lost her balance and went sliding across half the rink.

“I wanted to go for it at the line,” Kooreman said. “My back foot just came out from under me and they called that kicking out, I guess. It’s dependent on who decides what day they want to call it.”

Kooreman said she wasn’t intentionally trying to kick out, which is illegal in the wild and wooly sport. She and Gehring were leaning on each other at the finish line.

“Right now, I feel fired up because I’m kind of ticked off,” Kooreman said.

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