Gehring, Celski sweep US speedskating gold
Lana Gehring looked so at ease Friday after sweeping a pair of gold medals at the U.S. short track speedskating championships,
Wearing sweats and a smile, she sank into a plush leather couch for interviews.
Weeks earlier, she was so embarrassed by her skating, she didn't want the world to see it.
"To do so horrible and then like no improvement (between) World Cups . I couldn't show that. I couldn't show that to the world," Gehring said Friday.
Instead of continuing to race with the U.S. team at the most recent World Cup in Japan, she headed back to the states in November, and sought out Jae Su Chun, the coach at the center of a controversy that rocked the speedskating world earlier this year.
"I was just trying to turn things around," the 22-year-old skater said. "I'm happy that I'm starting to come back to where I want to be, through all the drama and everything."
Gehring was among a group of skaters who backed Chun despite abuse and skate-tampering charges leveled against him. She continued to back him even after he was suspended then resigned while maintaining his innocence.
Thus the World Cups began in October with one schism. Interim coaches replaced Chun and his assistants and the group that brought the abuse charges continued skating with the splinter FAST team.
While FAST athletes such as JR Celski excelled on the World Cup circuit, Gehring could do no better than ninth in races this fall.
"It was so mentally draining," Gehring said. "Last season I was at world championships and I got a bronze then all of a sudden I can't even make it to a semifinal or a final. It just killed me."
So she made the change, spending 2 1/2 weeks at a Washington, D. C., club working on nothing but technique, then joined forces with three other skaters who supported Chun - Jessica Smith and Cole and John-Henry Krueger - to work with Chun as part of a new group called Salt Lake International.
Instead of driving seven minutes to the Utah Olympic Oval to train, Gehring drives 30 miles cross-town to a rink near the University of Utah.
"We were a little worried about it in the beginning," Gehring said.
Now, they carpool, leaving at 5:30 or 6 most mornings.
She said the group plans to continue working with Chun, even though US Speedskating recently hired two-time Olympian Guy Thibault to coach the team going forward as the 2014 Winter Games approach.
She has a cordial relationship with Thibault but plans to remain with Chun, though he can't coach on the road.
"Right now I'm where I want to be," Gehring said. "I'm glad to be back with Jae Su. . But I've got a long way to go. These are just steppingstones. Things are more settled and more stable now and the results are showing."
They did Friday, with Gehring and Celski dominating the competition at the U.S. short track championships.
In the women's 1,500, Gehring finished in 2 minutes, 27.944 seconds, edging Emily Scott (2:28.087) and Smith (2:29.408).
Celski won the men's 1,500 in 2:25.719, ahead of Jeff Simon (2:25.930) and Travis Jayner (2:26.281). Celski, the two-time Olympic bronze medalist, cruised to an easy win in the men's 500, finishing in 41.365. Chris Creveling (41.934) took silver and Eduardo Alvarez bronze (47.865).
Gehring (44.492) also won the 500, edging Alyson Dudek (44. 539) and Smith (44.804.)
Dudek grabbed silver despite dislocating her left shoulder just two days earlier in practice.
It's part of skating, almost like all the controversy.
"I was really trusting of him to get me out of that slump I was in," Gehring said about Chun.
"I've been with him for six years, and I know he wants the best for me.