Short track-Apolo the inspiration for Celski

Wed Feb 5, 2014 5:01am EST
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SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Apolo Anton Ohno's masterful racing inspired many young Americans to try short track speed skating and J.R. Celski now dreams of taking up his idol's mantle in Sochi.

Celski has big shoes to fill.

The most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian, Ohno brought home eight Olympic medals since his first silver and gold in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. His retirement left a big void on the team.

"I have someone great to live up to in Apolo," J.R. Celski told reporters. "He was trying to push the boundaries of our sport and I am chasing that dream as well, so I try to emulate that in everything I do."

Celski, 23, is looking to do better than the pair of bronze medals he won in 2010 in Vancouver.

He feels close to being at his peak going into the Sochi Games - a far cry from four years ago when a gruesome injury almost prevented him from competing in Vancouver.

Celski's leg was cut open by his own skate blade following a crash.

"I am not on a hospital bed getting 66 stitches in my leg, that is the main difference," he told Reuters. "My focus then was just on getting back to the Games and being able to compete."

The experience left him mentally and physically exhausted, and he stopped skating for a year.   Continued...

Jan 4, 2014; Kearns, UT, USA; J.R. Celski competes in the fourth heat in the 500m of the U.S. Olympic short track speedskating trials at Utah Olympic Oval. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports