Olympic Speed Skater John-Henry Krueger's Coach, Mother Reflect On Path To Silver

By Andrew Goldstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 14, 2018, 1:17 p.m. (ET)

John-Henry Krueger was so talented at speed skating — even from a young age — that one of his childhood coaches knew he would go far. 

“You could tell that he had the talent, that he was a gifted athlete,” said Bob Halden of the Pittsburgh Speedskating Club. “You knew that from a very early age that he had the drive and the desire to keep going.”

Halden was one of Krueger’s first coaches in the sport that the 22-year-old from Peters Township medaled in Saturday at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Krueger won the silver medal in the 1,000-meter short-track speed skating, becoming the first American man to win an individual short-track medal since 2010.

Krueger traveled all over the United States and around the world for speed skating training, but he got his start in the sport with the Pittsburgh Speedskating Club.

Krueger started skating when he was 5 and joined the club at an early age. His mother, Heidi, was a coach with the club.

“When they’re that young, the most important thing is to make sure that they’re having fun and that they’re continuing to improve and they stick with it,” Halden said.

But Krueger was different. 

At a young age, he was making it onto junior speed skating teams. He participated in elite level competitions in the U.S. speed skating program.   

“He developed through there, and he had outstanding results,” Halden said. “You could see that he continued to improve.”

Krueger outgrew the Pittsburgh Speedskating Club after five or six years and sought coaching elsewhere.

He went to Washington D.C. and Salt Lake City. He traveled to South Korea and the Netherlands.

Despite Krueger’s talent and drive, he still faced a world of challenges. 

Krueger’s international moves for training were a significant financial burden to him and his family. He likely would have made the U.S. team for the 2014 winter Olympics, but he became sick with swine flu and couldn’t compete. 

“John-Henry and our family have overcome so much,” Heidi Krueger said Saturday in a text message to the Post-Gazette. “We’ve struggled with almost no help. Watching him race like that vindicated him. We couldn’t be more proud. He’s my hero.”

Through it all, Krueger and his family never forgot Pittsburgh.  

“From the beginning of this season, John-Henry wanted to be sure everything he did would shine a light on his home, Pittsburgh, from the black and gold skates to the clothing he wore at his media shoot,” Heidi Krueger said in a text message from South Korea. “We had our Terrible Towels there to represent our amazing city and its people! Pittsburgh Proud!”

Halden said he was “ecstatic” when he heard that Krueger won the silver medal, but he was not surprised. 

“If you followed his career over the past few years, I would have been surprised if he had won nothing,” Halden said. “I mean, he’s that good a skater, he’s that dedicated, he trains that hard. 

“If you followed his career, he won a lot of international competitions, he’s won medals in a lot of international competitions. I thought that he had a really good shot.” 

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