Let’s start with this: Apolo Anton Ohno’s quest to become the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian ever is a pretty fantastic story.
Ohno came one step closer late Saturday with a silver medal in the 1500 meter short-track event, which brought him into a tie with Bonnie Blair for six total medals.
But for my money Ohno wasn’t the story Saturday. That distinction belongs to J.R. Celski, the 19-year old American that went from near death (no joke) in a crash during the Olympic Trials to bronze medalist Saturday.
Celski, in fact, hadn’t participated in a competitive race since the trials in September.
During a race during the trials Celski wiped out and crashed into the padded wall. As a result of the spill his right skate blade sliced all the way to his thigh bone, missing his femoral artery by about an inch.
Blood spurted onto the ice. If the blade had caught his femoral artery it’s possible Celski could have bled out on the ice — right in front of his family and friends.
Instead he had surgery.
Ironically, Eric Heiden, who won five gold medals in long-track speedskating during the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., is now an orthopedic surgeon and oversaw Celski’s rehab.
Fast forward five months and Celski is cruising to a third place finish and a bronze medal in his first-ever Olympic Games.
Pretty incredible story, right? Ohno’s story could eventually be transcendent, but Celski’s is nothing to look past. It’s not often an athlete goes from horrifying injury to the near pinnacle of his sport.