Four years ago, John-Henry Krueger spent Friday night and early Saturday morning at the Olympic Trials lying on an apartment bathroom floor, unable to keep food down due to swine flu.
Tonight, Krueger celebrates his first Olympic short track speed skating berth.
“The win today in spite of what happened four years ago just made the victory that much sweeter,” Krueger said on NBCSN, adding later, “The first couple of seconds, I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I was hugging my mom and saw her crying, I knew I wasn’t going to wake up from a dream.”
He topped the 1500m at the Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, to become the first of five men to qualify for PyeongChang this weekend.
Krueger was second in the first of two 1500m races behind three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski.
Celski went into the second and final 1500m as the favorite but slipped and fell with a lap and a half left.
Krueger won the race and moved ahead of Celski in the overall standings for the one Olympic berth available.
Celski will have more chances Saturday and Sunday to get one of the last four Olympic men’s spots.
Vancouver Olympian Lana Gehring swept her 1500m races to become the first woman to make the PyeongChang team.
Gehring, 27, held off Jessica Kooreman by .113 of a second in the second 1500m final to clinch the spot. Kooreman was later disqualified.
Gehring failed to make the Sochi Olympic team, retired, unretired in late 2015 to try long-track speed skating, then switched back to short track this year.
In 2014, the U.S. won zero individual short track medals at an Olympics for just the second time since the sport debuted at Albertville 1992.
Celski and Kooreman came the closest to the podium, each picking up a fourth-place finish.
Individual medal prospects in the six events in PyeongChang are not great.
The U.S. bagged one individual World Cup medal this season in 24 total races — a bronze from Celski.
Krueger leads the program with five individual World Cup medals since Sochi, one coming in the last three years.
In 2013, he also won a World Cup medal and was a favorite to get to Sochi. But he came down with swine flu the week of trials.
He fought, even finishing second in a race on the final day, but didn’t have enough strength to make the Olympic team.
“All the lovely side effects that come with swine flu,” Krueger, who now lives and trains in the Netherlands, said earlier this fall. “I had all the classic symptoms of that.”
The best hope in PyeongChang may be the men’s relay, where the U.S. made the podium at the last three Olympics.
A U.S. quartet anchored by Celski and including Krueger broke the world record last month.
The four men who will join Krueger in PyeongChang will be decided the next two days in Utah.
The top finishers in the 500m (Saturday) and 1000m (Sunday) are guaranteed Olympic berths.
The U.S. women did not qualify an Olympic relay, but the 500m and 1000m winners will join Gehring in PyeongChang for individual races. If Gehring wins either distance, then a runner-up in one of the distances will qualify.
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U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials
|Friday||6:45-8 p.m.||1500m rounds||STREAM LINK|
|8:30-10 p.m.||1500m finals||NBCSN | STREAM LINK|
|Saturday||12-1:45 p.m.||500m rounds||STREAM LINK|
|2:30-4 p.m.||500m finals||NBC | STREAM LINK|
|Sunday||10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.||1000m rounds||STREAM LINK|
|1-3 p.m.||1000m finals||NBC | STREAM LINK|