- Short Track
From inline to ice, U.S. short track team shares bond
“My story is, I turned around I saw this little bald, brown kid," Alvarez said with a laugh. "And I’m like, ‘Hey, what’s up man?’ He goes, ‘Hey’ and I’m like, ‘Are you a primary boy?’ -- that’s the age group we were in back in the day -- and he’s like, ‘Yeah,’ I’m like, ‘OK Cool!’ That’s the first time I met him.”
The two American short track speed skaters know each other from their days of inline skating as kids. Imagining Celski, the world record holder for the 500m in short track and a double Olympic medalist, along with Alvarez, a three-time World Cup medalist, chirping at each other as preteens is pretty amusing.
Both are grown now and represent two of the best medal chances for the U.S. short track team.
“We’d race each other and either he won nationals or I win nationals but we would always go one and two, and just the idea that we can represent the country at the Olympics like that, with that history, with that friendship, it would be incredible,” Alvarez said. “It’s a great story, I believe.”
They are just two of a group of five American short track skaters that know each other from their inline days.
The crew that knew each other is: J.R. Celski, Eddy Alvarez, Chris Creveling, Jordan Malone and Jeff Simon. All of the skaters, at some point, have been a part of the U.S. short track relay team, which finished first in the overall World Cup standings this season for the first time in history.
Creveling, who will turn 27 in December, and Malone, who is 29 years old, are older than the rest of the crew, but still knew of them on the inline scene.
“Now, to even be on teams together, I hear a ton, Jeff Simon and J.R. both used to be on inline, basically in the sport of inline and they used to idolize me being the world champion in inline," Malone said. "So for them to be on a team with me, you know sometimes I sit back and I’m like ‘this is crazy.’”
Malone skated with Creveling on four different inline world championship teams, and the two have become good friends.
“Just traveling with him and getting to know him is awesome and it’s kind of the same deal now,” Creveling said of his friendship with Malone. “We have a lot of fun together.”
Alvarez and Celski, on the other hand, were intense competitors growing up. Both were born in 1990, and they would see each other every year in competition.
“J.R. raced for Pattison’s, a speed club, in Federal Way, Wash. I raced for Superwheels in Miami, Fla. Completely opposite ends of the country, but we would meet up every year and race each other,” Alvarez said. “Same age, so every year we raced each other.”
The two are now close friends, and the respect between each other is obvious.
“To me, J.R. is the number one anchor out of all the countries," Alvarez said. "He’s taken that role perfectly.”
Alvarez isn’t the only one with respect for Celski, who is the top American short track speed skater. Creveling saw Celski develop and become a star at the 2010 U.S. Olympic trials, where he beat Apolo Ohno.
“He was the strongest skater the U.S. had at the time and then he fell and cut himself, and the way he came back from that within three months time, you’ll never see that again," Creveling said in reference to the injury that nearly forced Celski to miss Vancouver. "He still was able to get an individual medal at the Games despite that injury, I mean, just so much respect for him and he’s really helped me out ever since then, just get to where I am now. To train with him was a great experience, just a lot of love for that guy.”
It’s not just happenstance that the group all started in inline and ended up speed skating. The transition from the wood to the ice has become common, especially in short track, where some of the pack-style racing is the same.
“All of us were inliners, I can’t stress that enough, like 90 percent of the field now is inliners, we all sort of bring that racing mentality to the table when we get out there,” Creveling said.
Creveling and crew are one of the favorites in the relay, and Celski could easily win an individual medal. The group of skaters that have known each other since their days of adolescence have developed into serious Olympic medal contenders, and if you ask them, it’s no coincidence.
“Competing with them on ice is totally different, but we still share all those memories, those times we’ve skated together, you know, we’ve developed that training mentality through inline and we’ve carried that over to ice and it’s really paid off for us.”
Embedded video_content_type: American J.R. Celski strums the ukulele
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