John-Henry Krueger competes in the men's 1,500-meter short track speedskating qualifying round at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- When some of the world’s top short track speedskaters raced for an Olympic medal in the men’s 1,500-meter final, the U.S. did not have an athlete in the mix.
Team USA’s Aaron Tran finished fifth in the B final for a 12th-place finish overall, while J.R. Celski and John-Henry Krueger did not advance from their semifinals after being penalized for impeding.
“We train to win, so to come out here and to not advance into the A final in the medal round is disappointing,” said Celski, a three-time Olympic medalist. “But at the same time, I gave it my best shot and that’s all I could have done.”
Celski finished 22nd overall on Saturday, but at the last two Olympic Winter Games, he had much better showings in this event. In Vancouver, Celski won the bronze medal, and in Sochi, he finished just off the podium in fourth.
Krueger won the 1,500 at Olympic trials last month, and his night in PyeongChang started well, as he won his first-round heat. In the semifinal, Krueger said he felt like he got hit by another athlete from behind. But the referees determined that he made contact with another competitor, so like Celski, Krueger's run for a medal ended in the semifinals.
“Tonight I’m definitely going to look over at some of the race replays and see what I can improve on, talk to my coaches and then get a good night's rest,” Krueger said. “At the end of the day, all I can do is learn from this and make myself stronger and smarter and smoother on the ice.”
On Saturday, Krueger and Tran both made their Olympic debuts. Tran, who already has a credential lanyard full of Olympic pins, said the outpouring of support from those around him has been encouraging.
The team, Tran said, was “kind of down” after the calls that took away Celski and Krueger’s chance to skate in the final. But still, all three of these athletes have multiple events left on their 2018 Olympic agenda. Krueger will also skate in the 500- and 1,000-meter races, Celski in the 1,000 and Tran the 500, while all three are likely to appear in the 5,000-meter relay.
“I’m going to have to accept this call and just make sure that it doesn’t squash my confidence for the upcoming races,” Krueger said. “My Olympics definitely isn’t over.”
Emily Giambalvo is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.500.