Celski sails into 1500m short track final

Sochi, Russia ( - American J.R. Celski secured a spot in the finals of the men's 1,500-meter short track speedskating competition after winning his semifinal heat on Monday.

Celski, who won bronze in this event at the Vancouver Olympics, turned in a time of 2 minutes, 21.603 seconds, finishing just ahead of China's Dequan Chen.

Korea's Sin Da Woon and Lee Han-Bin both went crashing into the wall during the race to leave them outside the top two, but Lee was awarded a spot in the final after it was ruled he was impeded by another skater.

China's Han Tianyu claimed the first heat with a time of 2:15.858, while Viktor Ahn finished in second. Ahn won gold in this event in 2006 for South Korea, but failed to qualify for the 2010 Olympics and after a falling out with his home country, the 28-year-old Russian citizen decided to compete for the host nation.

Canadian Charles Hamelin turned in the top time of the semifinals, finishing in 2:14.480, while Great Britain's Jack Whelbourne claimed the last spot in the finals after crossing the finish line just behind the three-time Olympic medalist Hamelin.

Heats for the women's 500-meter short track competition started Monday, with Canada's Marianne St-Gelais claiming a spot in the quarterfinals after winning her qualifying heat.

A silver medalist at the 2010 Games, St-Gelais skated across the finish line in 43.729 seconds, while Yara van Kerkhoe followed in second to secure her spot in the quarterfinals at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Italy's Arianna Fontana, who claimed the bronze medal in Vancouver, won her heat in 43.568 seconds, just ahead of China's Li Jianrou.

Canadian's Valerie Maltais and Jessica Hewitt also advanced, while 17-year-old South Korean Shim Suk Hee claimed a spot in the next round with a time of 44.197 seconds.

Emily Scott was the only American to move into the quarterfinals after finishing in 45.210 seconds, over a full second behind Korea's Park Seung-Hi.

China's Wang Meng, who won gold at this event in Vancouver, sustained an injury in January while training for the games and was unable to compete.