For Denton’s Jordan Malone, 2014 has gotten off to a very good start.
On Sunday, Malone learned he had officially earned a spot on the U.S. speedskating team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next month. On Saturday, Malone fell in the quarterfinals of the second 1,000 and withdrew from the ensuing rounds knowing that he had accumulated enough points to secure an Olympic berth.
Malone, who won a bronze medal in 2010 on the relay team, was one of five to earn places on the team Sunday.
Short-track speedskaters J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith each qualified for their third race on at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and will anchor the U.S. teams headed to Sochi next month.
The two skaters, who are both inline converts, won the 1,000-meter classification on the final day of the trails at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah. They both previously qualified in the 500 and 1,000 events.
First-time Olympians Chris Creveling and Kyle Carr join Malone on the relay team. Eddy Alvarez, the first Cuban-American man to make a U.S. speedskating Olympic team, qualified Saturday.
All five men belong to the U.S. World Cup team, whose relay team finished the season ranked at the top for the first time ever.
The team will be led by the 23-year-old Celski, the 500-meter world record-holder who won bronze medals in Vancouver and is ranked No. 11 in the world.
This will be the first short-track team since 2002 without eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno or Katherine Reutter, a two-time Olympic medalist. Both have retired.
Joining Smith as a first-time Olympian will be Emily Scott, who earned a spot Saturday. The third women’s spot went to Alyson Dudek, who won a bronze on the relay team in Vancouver.
Lana Gehring of Glenview, who won a bronze with Dudek, fell short of her second Olympics.
Only three women will compete in Sochi because its World Cup team did not qualify for the team relay for the first time, leaving the American women with their smallest squad since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1992.
Smith won both of the women’s 1,000 finals, and she’ll skate in three individual events in Sochi. She competed with a small tear in her left hip that she has deferred surgery on until after the Olympics.
Smith and Scott each will compete in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500. Dudek will skate the 500 and 1,500.
Smith is the only Olympian to be coached by Jae Su Chun, who was accused by a dozen national team members of physical, emotional and verbal abuse in fall 2012. He also was alleged to have ordered speedskater Simon Cho to sabotage the skates of a Canadian rival.
Chun denied all allegations, and other members of the team came to his defense. Chun is serving a two-year suspension through October, but he was allowed to be in the stands during the trials as long as he didn’t get inside the racing area. Smith relied on another coach when she was on the ice.
“He’s helped my dreams come true,” Smith said. “He’s stuck by me this whole time, just like I’ve stuck by him this entire time. It’s obviously paid off. I won every distance with his help and I wouldn’t be skating at the level I’m skating without his help.”