J.R Celski shows what an Olympian is made of both on and off the ice.

J.R Celski shows what an Olympian is made of both on and off the ice.

Four year ago in Vancouver, U.S. Speedskater J.R Celski should have been a star. After a horrific accident in which he sliced his leg to the bone with the blade of his own skate, thanks to a crash between Korean skaters who outsmarted themselves in their team racing effort, Celski was able to win the bronze medal in the 1500m event. But the spotlight was on team mate Apolo Ohno and his bid to become the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time. You’d think that would have made J.R. envious if not a bit jealous. But Celski credits Ohno for being the inspiration for his skating career and he too is a fan. “Just watching Apolo winning made my heart melt,” he says.

In Sochi it will be a different story. Apolo is at the 2014 Winter Olympics too. But this time, fresh off of a stint on Dancing With The Stars, Ohno is a commentator for NBC; his massive thighs hidden, draped in the bottom half of a two-piece suit. Not so Celski’s. His equally drool-worthy thighs of thunder will be on display for all to see as he skates for the gold. But if they handed out medals for being adorably cute, the 5’ 8” tall Caucasian/Filipino hunk from Washington State would already have a chest full of gold.

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If Tom Daley knows what is good for him he’ll keep Dustin Lance Black busy over the next few weeks or that bastard will be slipping his phone number to J.R. next. Not that I’d blame him. Though since J.R.’s 23, he may be getting a bit too long in the tooth for DLB anyway.

Not that J.R hasn’t packed a lot of living into those 23 years. A two-time Olympian (almost three, but he was too young by 17 days for the 2006 Games), a champion inline skater, and a documentary film producer, Celski’s attacked life much in the same way he attacks the short track. He says his story began at the age of three when his parents strapped on a pair of playskool plastic roller skates to his feet. A year later he began his competitive athletic career as an inline speed skater; by the age of 12 he’d moved over to skating on ice.

It was at the age of 14, when Celski watched Apolo compete in the 2002 Winter Olympics that he decided to pursue his own Olympic dream. “I remember watching, sitting on my living room floor with my mom. And watching him raise his arms in triumph after he won this race,” he says. “ It was the single defining moment that brought me over to short track speedskating.”

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His breakthrough performance in the sport came in 2009 when he won five medals (two gold, one silver, two bronze) at the World Championships in Vienna, finishing 2nd overall. In September of that year at the U.S. Olympic Trials, thanks to a crash during the semifinals of the 500m race, J.R.’s Olympic career almost came to an end. Looking down, he saw the tip of the blade from his right skate firmly lodged in the quad of his left leg. He took the blade out and watched blood spout furiously onto the smooth, white ice. “I thought I was going to die for a split second,” Celski says. He almost did. The cut was 6” wide and 2” deep. He’d bruised his femoral artery and came inches away from severing it.

After the injury was closed with about 60 stitches, Celski started thinking about recovering and getting back on his feet as soon as possible. In a month, he was able to walk without crutches. By November, he was back on the ice, but it was only two months to the Olympics and he could only skate very carefully and very slowly. J.R. used those two months to get back into world-class shape, and took to the ice once again at the Vancouver Olympics..

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At those Games, with the media’ attention on Apolo, Celski won two bronze medals, one in the 1500m and another in the 5000 m relay. In the 1500m final, Celski was in fifth place when 2006 silver medalist Lee Ho-Suk crashed into fellow Korean skater Sung Si-Bak during the final turn of the last lap. As a result, J.R. moved into third place. Apolo Ohno moved into second. At J.R.’s inaugural event in Sochi during the semi-finals it almost looked like a repeat of the 1500m race in Vancouver; once again the two Korean skaters took each other out, clearing the way for J.R to take the lead and earn his spot in the finals.

After the 2010 Winter Olympics, Celski delayed his college plans in order to focus on his new business promoting the Seattle arts scene. Taking a year off, he started filming a documentary on the Northwest hip hop scene titled The Otherside, named for Macklemore’s track of the same name. J.R. says that tune, which talks about drug addiction, facing one’s demons, and the need to jump through certain hoops to succeed, resonated with him. The documentary, he says, was a “passion project,” combining his love for film and music.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis shot to fame on the strength of their hit, Thrift Shop and most recently with the gay rights anthem Same Love. Even though Macklemore has taken a strong stance on gay rights issues, Celski said he doesn’t want to weigh in on the anti-gay legislation in Russia. “I’ve heard stuff here and there about the issues and I really don’t have a lot to say about it,” he says. “I’m focused on competing and doing what I’m doing.”

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Celski was nominated to the US Olympic Team for a second time after winning all three distances (500, 1000, 1500) at Olympic Trials in January of this year. No longer under Ohno’s shadow, he is America’s hope for a medal in men’s speedskating. Though the 1500m is considered his strongest event, he finished in a disappointing 4th place at Sochi. Hopefully he’ll do better at the shorter distances. If not he can always follow his idol once again and land a spot on Dancing With The Stars. Maybe performing to Same Love.

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[‘The XXII Gays of The Winter Olympics’ are a series of posts about hot Olympians, gay competitors – both present and past – and general articles about the 2014 Sochi Games of interest to gay men. So, yeah, lots of hot male eye candy. Click the The XXII Gays of The Winter Olympics graphic below for additional news, stories, and pictures.]
The XXII Gays of The Winter Olympics