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Speedskater Ohno may see familiar face on podium

If things go the way they hope at the Winter Olympics, Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski will stand together on the short-track speedskating podium in Vancouver, B.C.

Should that happen, it will be a moment that was nearly spoiled 13 years earlier by the allure of Wild Waves Theme Park in Federal Way, Wash.

The water park is about a mile from Pattison's West skating center, where first Ohno and later Celski began racing on inline skates. On warm summer days, the lure of zipping down the twisting slides beckoned and nearly sabotaged two Olympic careers.

At 14, Ohno got his big break in the form of an invitation to train with the national team in Lake Placid, N.Y. Ohno, though, was unsure he wanted to go.

"He had his whole summer planned," said Yuki Ohno, Apolo's dad. "He was going to the water park and parties. That's all he wanted to do."

Still, Yuki talked his son into going to Lake Placid to train. Or so he thought.

Moments after his dad dropped him off at the airport, Ohno called a friend who was waiting to pick him up.

"When I found out, I flew with him to Lake Placid," Yuki said. "I told the coach when I left him, ‘Good luck if you think you can keep him here for three months.'"

Ohno wasn't done rebelling, but when he finally focused he became a skating legend. The 27-year-old has won five Olympic medals — one shy of Bonnie Blair's U.S. Winter Olympics record — nine world championships and even has appeared on "Dancing with the Stars."

It was watching Ohno win gold in 2002 that inspired Celski, now 19, to try speedskating.

Celski's parents, Bob and Sue, didn't have to twist their son's arm to maximize his talent. He was eager to train and even move away when he was 12. In fact, it was his idea.

"He came to us with all these reasons why he needed to move to California to train," Sue said. "He's always been very determined."

Today, Celski is faster than his mentor. He won two gold medals at his first world championships last season and, if not for a gruesome leg injury at the Olympic trials, he'd likely be a favorite to win gold in his first Olympics.

Even though his focus came naturally and Ohno had to discover his, Celski followed a very similar path to the one Ohno cut in the ice.

Sacrifice. Burnout. Rededication. And now, he hopes, Olympic glory.

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