Two Pittsburgh short track speed skaters are on the national Team USA training team, with one qualifying to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
John-Henry Krueger and Lexi Burkholder, both 22 years old, compete professionally at domestic and international relays, and are both from the South Hills area. In speed skating competitions, multiple athletes skate an oval ice rink for distances of 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters.
Krueger, of Peters Township, recently secured a spot on the Olympic team, along with four other American athletes. His mother is a professional figure skating coach, which meant his family spent a lot of time on the ice.
“My brother and I weren’t particularly into hockey and we weren’t into figure skating, so the next step was short track,” Krueger said. “I was always competitive and I had to be first in some of the things that I did off the ice. So I think that translates well to what the sport of short track is.”
He’s competed in multiple World Junior Champions and World Cups, and raced in two Short Track World Championships. He was supposed to go to the 2014 Olympic trials, but missed out after developing swine flu. This won’t be the first time he’s traveled to South Korea, however, having previously trained in Seoul.
This is the pure raw emotion of becoming the new world recorder holders in the 5,000. Words cannot express how proud of the team I am. Sadly the celebration will be short because we leave for Seoul, South Korea tomorrow for World Cup 4. #worldrecord #champs #Shanghai #relay #USA #ballouskies #UnderAmour
A post shared by John-Henry Krueger (@johnhenrykgr) on
Nov 12, 2017 at 3:28am PST
“I’m very happy to meet up with friends I’ve amassed over the years and most important, the food and then competing,” he said.
Krueger said his best advice to aspiring speed skaters is to take training seriously and avoid the urge to rush through training.
“You can’t start short track speed skating off really fast, that’s not how the sport works,” Krueger said. “You have to study the dynamic movements of the sport and the technique of the sport before you can go fast.”
A McMurray-native, Burkholder has also appeared on the Short Track World Cup Teams and competed in the U.S. Junior National Championships. She said she got into the sport after watching a commercial on Disney channel.
“It was in 2006, right around the 2006 Torino Olympics, and they had a little profile on kids my age, 10-year-olds, who were speed skating,” Burkholder said. “I just thought it was cool and there was a club in Pittsburgh that was pretty active back then.”
Burkholder said she loves the rhythm she feels competitively speed skating.
“I like the very rare moments when you can achieve flow in the sport,” she said. “Every so often you have a good day, that’s what I really like about it.”
She won't be headed to the Olympics this year, but hopes to in the future. Training in Salt Lake City, Utah, Burkholder said she brings some of Pittsburgh with her to the rink.
“My skates are black and yellow and I always say, ‘it’s not Steelers colors, it’s Pittsburgh colors,’” she said.
Krueger and the men’s Olympic speed skating team are scheduled to compete on Feb. 10, 2018, when they race in the 1,500 meter final.