Getty Images

John-Henry Krueger, Olympic short track medalist, eyes Hungary

Leave a comment

John-Henry Krueger, who earned the U.S.’ lone short track medal in PyeongChang, wants to compete for Hungary.

U.S. Speedskating confirmed USA Today report that the Olympic 1000m silver medalist seeks Hungarian citizenship.

“I was and am still proud to have represented the United States during my career but have been faced with an unsustainable situation where if I continue pursuing my career with the US team I will bankrupt myself and my family,” Krueger said in an email, according to the newspaper. “Overall the financial costs necessary for me to perform competitively at the international level are unsustainable with the lack of sufficient financial support from US Speedskating and the [United States Olympic Committee].”

Krueger has not responded to a request for comment, but his representative said U.S. Speedskating is committed to grant Krueger’s request to be released to compete for Hungary.

“Today John-Henry accepted the Hungarian’s offer to represent Hungary,” was posted on Krueger’s mom’s Facebook account, according to the newspaper. “Be clear JH did not leave his country, but is leaving the federation that callously abandoned him on so many fronts long ago and then refused to thoughtfully consider any of JH’s concerns, opinions, and requirements.”

Krueger would join older brother Cole with the Hungarian program if released by U.S. Speedskating. Cole switched from the U.S. to Hungary after the 2015-16 season, but he had to take the 2016-17 season off from competition after being released by U.S. Speedskating.

The Kruegers had disputes with U.S. Speedskating since at least 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cole moved to Hungary, which he said was the country of his ancestry, in part because of that program’s coaching staff.

“I don’t have problems with the U.S. coaches, but the skill level hasn’t been what I think was necessary,” Cole said, according to the newspaper in a March 2017 article. “No one would trade for the U.S. coaches.”

Cole was not chosen for Hungary’s Olympic team.

John-Henry, who lived and trained in South Korea and the Netherlands in recent years, swept all three distances at December’s U.S. Olympic Trials and was considered an outside medal hope going into his first Olympics.

His silver in the 1000m was the first individual U.S. Olympic medal in short- or long-track speed skating since 2010.

John-Henry joined about 200 members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams last Friday at the White House, where he was one of about a dozen athletes congratulated by name by President Donald Trump.

Krueger could become the fourth U.S. Winter Olympian to later compete for a different country at a Winter Games, after fellow short track skater Anthony Lobello, who competed for the U.S. in 2006 and Italy in 2014, Alpine skier Sarah Schleper, an American from 1998-2010 and Mexican in 2018 and Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, a bobsledder for the U.S. in 2014 and Jamaica in 2018, according to the OlyMADMen.

Three other athletes competed for other countries at the Winter Olympics, then later became U.S. Winter Olympians (figure skater Rena Inoue and lugers Clay Ives and Bengt Walden).

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this post left out Schleper and Fenlator-Victorian as the second and third athletes to compete for the U.S. in a Winter Olympics, then a different nation in a later Olympics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Best short track moments from PyeongChang

Alina Zagitova wins Rostelecom Cup; Gracie Gold withdraws

Leave a comment

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova dominated the Rostelecom Cup, while Gracie Gold withdrew before Saturday’s free skate at her first competition in 22 months, citing emotional stress.

Zagitova skated a flawed free, but still totaled 222.95 points and prevailed by 24.94 over countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Zagitova qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international competition, which takes the top six skaters from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Gold, coming back from treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder, was in last place of 10 skaters after struggling with jumps in Friday’s short program.

Gold, a Sochi Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, later tweeted that she withdrew because competing in the free skate would be damaging to her mental health and confidence.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture,” was tweeted from Gold’s account. “Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition. I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it. I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months.”

The Grand Prix season continues next week with Nathan Chen headlining Internationaux de France, the last event before the Grand Prix Final.

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Zagitova, 16, is undefeated in three events this season and owns the world’s top overall score (238.43) by a whopping 14.12 points. However, Japanese 16-year-old Rika Kihira has the highest total on the Grand Prix of 224.31.

Zagitova struggled Saturday with the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination and doubled a flip at the end of her free skate.

Her primary rival last season, countrywoman Yevgenia Medvedeva, has finished second or third in her four competitions in the last year and likely must reach the podium next week in France for a chance at the Grand Prix Final and her first matchup with Zagitova since PyeongChang.

It’s likely that no U.S. woman makes the Grand Prix Final for a third straight year, after never previously going back-to-back years without a qualifier. U.S. champion Bradie Tennell likely must win in France to reach the Final.

Earlier Saturday, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s event, hours after twisting his right ankle in a hard practice fall. Hanyu hopped on a crutch backstage and said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals later in December. More here on Hanyu’s day.

Russian favorites Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the pairs’ and ice dance titles, respectively, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

Tarasova and Morozov, two-time world medalists, posted 220.25 points, moving up to No. 2 in the world behind French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who were not in the Rostelecom field. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing this fall. Earlier Saturday, Tarasova received five stitches after cutting her chin in a practice crash into the boards.

In dance, Stepanova and Bukin tallied 199.43, keeping them close to U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue in the world rankings. Those two couples face off for the first time this season at the Grand Prix Final.

The top returning couple this season, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, competes next week at the top international level for the first time since winning a third world title in March. They are not eligible for the Grand Prix Final after withdrawing from last week’s NHK Trophy due to Cizeron’s back injury.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ashley Wagner on her competitive future, coaching

Yuzuru Hanyu wins Rostelecom Cup, hops on crutch to press conference

Leave a comment

Yuzuru Hanyu won Rostelecom Cup by nearly 30 points, then hopped on a crutch backstage.

The double Olympic champion twisted his right ankle in a hard practice fall Saturday morning, then several hours later had the highest-scoring free skate with three quadruple jumps.

Hanyu said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final in three weeks — and a showdown with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and, likely, world champion Nathan Chen according to The Associated Press.

“It really hurts,” Hanyu said, according to Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “This injury made me change my program, and sadly I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. I could have done better.”

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Hanyu apologized to a TV camera following his free skate, after falling and popping an Axel on his last two jumps.

Last November, Hanyu damaged right ankle ligaments in a practice fall, forcing him off the ice for more than a month. He said this injury is not as bad. Still, coach Brian Orser said “it was a big question” whether Hanyu would withdraw before the free skate, according to Olympic Channel.

Hanyu endured, taking out the quadruple loop that he fell on in practice but still adding 10 points to his lead from Friday’s short program. For the first time in nine seasons, Hanyu won his two Grand Prix Series qualifying events, cruising into December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

Georgian Morisi Kvitelashvili took second, followed by Japanese Kazuki Tomono.

Two other men who came to Moscow with Grand Prix Final hopes — Russian Mikhail Kolyada and Canadian Keegan Messing — struggled in Friday’s short program and could not get onto the podium, placing fourth and fifth. They won’t be at the Final, assuming Chen finishes in the top six at next week’s event in France.

Rostelecom Cup continues later Saturday with the free programs for ice dance, pairs and women, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ashley Wagner on her future, role as coach