J.R. Celski, 27, and Aaron Tran, 21, are both former students at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way. Celski, who has three Olympic medals, will be in the Games for the third time. Tran is competing on his first Olympic team.
KEARNS, Utah – Five men will be on the U.S. short-track speedskating team at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and two — J.R. Celski and Aaron Tran — are from Federal Way.
Celski, 27, and Tran, 21, qualified for the team that will compete in South Korea, based on their performances at the Olympic trials, which end Sunday at the Utah Olympic Oval. Both attended Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way.
“It was amazing,” Celski said of qualifying for the 2018 Games on the same day as Tran. “We went to the same school, and now we are going to the Olympics together. I’m so happy for him and his family, and everyone that supports him.”
Of Celski, Tran said, “He’s a great role model, a great leader.”
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Celski has earned three Olympic medals — two bronze at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and a silver in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Tran, who made his first Olympic team, won the first 500-meter final in 40.945 seconds and was last of four in the second final.
“Just hearing that I punched my ticket to Pyeongchang,” Tran said. “I don’t have any words for it. I’ve been training my whole life for this moment, and it’s surreal that I’ve actually made it.”
The short-track events for the Pyeongchang Olympics will be held at Gangneung Ice Arena.
Celski wasn’t in the 500-meter final Tran won because he crashed in the quarterfinals. Celski was runner-up in the second 500-meter final to John-Henry Krueger, who earned his Olympic-team berth Friday because he had the most points in the 1,500-meter finals.
Celski had the second-most overall points in the 1,500, so when Krueger also had the most overall points in the 500 (Tran was second in that category), a spot on the team opened for Celski.
“I really couldn’t get control of myself after the first fall,” Celski said. “I fell into the pads a little awkward, kind of hurt myself a bit. But fortunately my trainer and I took care of it.”
Krueger won the second 500 final in 40.939 seconds; Celski’s time was 41.019.
17-year-old Biney makes history
Maame Biney became the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic speedskating team with a pair of victories in the 500 meters.
Biney, 17, was born in Ghana and moved to Virginia with her father, Kweku, when she was 5. Biney defeated previous Olympians Lana Gehring, Jessica Kooreman and Katherine Reutter-Adamek.
“I can’t believe it, aww, geez,” Biney said of making the team. “It’s a really good feeling, but it has to set in first because it takes me awhile. I’m like, ‘Holy cow.’ ”
Before the second final, her father held up a sign reading: “Kick some hiney Biney.”
Biney fell while celebrating her second victory, but was laughing all the way.
“When I realized that I made the Olympic team, I started cheering like crazy and then I made my epic fall,” she said.
Three U.S. women will qualify for the Olympic team.