Viktor Ahn
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Viktor Ahn retires as greatest Olympic short track speed skater

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Viktor Ahn, the most decorated short track speed skater in Olympic history, has retired after eight medals with six golds competing for South Korea and then Russia, according to Russian media.

Ahn, 32, earned four medals and three golds each at the 2006 Olympics for South Korea (as Ahn Hyun-Soo, a top rival to Apolo Ohno) and the 2014 Olympics for Russia.

He missed South Korea’s team for the 2010 Olympics after undergoing four knee surgeries in the 15 months leading up to the Olympic Trials. Ahn’s club team dissolved, and his father contacted Russia’s federation. He became a citizen in 2011.

The International Olympic Committee did not invite Ahn to compete in the PyeongChang Olympics, the only way he could have competed in his birth nation due to sanctions placed on Russia for its poor anti-doping record.

“Not being included on the invitation list does not necessarily mean that an athlete has been doped — it should not automatically cast doubt on their integrity,” Valerie Fourneyron, who chaired the IOC panel determining Russian invites, said after the list was released. “The IOC would like to make clear that there may still be further enquiries and further anti-doping procedures coming up against a number of those athletes who have not been included on the pool of athletes considered for invitation.”

That exclusion prompted Ahn, who had never been implicated publicly in any doping cases, to write an open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach.

“It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping,” Ahn wrote.

Russian speed skating federation president Aleksey Kravtsov said missing PyeongChang didn’t influence Ahn’s retirement, according to Russian news agency TASS.

“However, it was undoubtedly a huge blow for him,” Kravtsov said, according to the report. “His participation in the [2018] Olympics was initially seen as the last one in his career, which he was eventually planning to wrap up with.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics add seven new events

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Seven new events were added to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic program:

Women’s monobobsled
Short track mixed team relay
Ski jumping mixed team event
Freestyle skiing big air (men and women)
Aerials mixed team event
Snowboard cross mixed team event

The additions bring the Winter Olympic total number of events to 109, an all-time high and nearly double the amount of events at the 1992 Winter Games.

The number of women’s hockey teams will increase from eight to 10 in 2022, but the overall number of athletes is expected to be fewer than the 2,933 in PyeongChang. The International Olympic Committee said athlete quotas will decrease in some sports, but no events have been contracted. Alpine skiing’s super combined events are still under review as to whether they will remain in the Olympic program.

The IOC said the Winter Olympics will have its highest-ever gender balance in 2022, rising from 41 percent female athletes to more than 45 percent.

The IOC had a “long discussion” about adding a women’s event in Nordic combined, the only sport without a women’s event in the Winter Games, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

“Nordic combined, and women’s in particular, still need to be developed further in terms of universality [the number of countries with Olympic-level athletes], in terms of the level of the athletes,” McConnell said.

The IOC also weighed whether to add a four-woman bobsled event rather than women’s monobobsled. The Games have two-man and two-woman events and a four-man event.

McConnell said the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation was “very supportive” of monobob, in part because it is already on the Youth Olympic program.

“Woman’s four-man bob costs three or four times of monobob,” McConnell said. “We felt there would be more universality in the women’s monobob. We really didn’t see more than a handful of countries really developing women’s four-man programs because of the costs involved.”

Beijing will mark the third straight Winter Olympics to add mixed-gender events. In 2014, mixed relays in biathlon and luge debuted, as well as the figure skating team event. In PyeongChang, a mixed Alpine skiing team event and mixed doubles curling debuted.

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

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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.

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