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John-Henry Krueger ends U.S. speed skating's medal drought

Wins 1000m silver
John-Henry Krueger ends U.S. speed skating's medal drought
Posted at 11:51 AM, Feb 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-17 12:59:26-05

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) —  John-Henry Krueger won the United States' first individual speed skating medal since 2010.

Samuel Girard yelled and signaled No. 1 with both index fingers as he crossed the finish line first. Just behind him, John-Henry Krueger spread his arms in a can-you-believe-it gesture.

The Canadian and the American claimed gold and silver in the men's 1,000-meter short track Saturday, upsetting the powerful South Koreans.

Girard and Krueger raced to celebrate with their coaches on the sideline. Krueger sank to his knees on the ice, head in hands, still stunned at winning the first U.S. speedskating medal of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

"There were so many thoughts rushing through my head," Krueger said.

World champion Seo Yira of the host nation earned bronze.

Seo and teammate Lim Hyo-jun, who earlier won the 1,500, were taken out in the turn approaching the last lap by Liu Shaolin Sandor of Hungary. Seo got up and kept going, but he was too far behind to catch the leaders. Girard and Krueger sprinted to the finish, with the Canadian keeping his lead.

"There is just too much traffic and stuff that can go down if you stay in the back, so we both stayed up in the front and it paid off for both of us," Krueger said.

Both Girard and Krueger were fortunate to reach the A final after both got advanced to the semifinals.

Girard moved on at the expense of countryman Charles Hamelin, who was penalized for impeding.

"Just before the race he said to me, 'Let's go, you can do this.' He gave me a tap on the back," Girard said. "We train together, all the team was behind me on this medal."

Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands was penalized for the same reason. He finished second in his quarterfinal and Krueger was fourth, but the American moved on when the referees reviewed video.

"I bumped into the American and that is it," Knegt said. "He came to the inside, had his hands in the air. He made the referees look at the video replay."

In the first short-track event of the games, Krueger was penalized in the semifinals of the 1,500. Kneght won silver.

"Earlier in the 1,500 there was a call I disagreed with, and short track is about taking the good calls and the bad calls," Krueger said. "In the 1,500 I took the bad call and in the 1,000 I took the good call."

Four years ago, Krueger was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic trials when he came down with swine flu.

In the women's 1,500 final, Choi Min-jeong won the host nation's second short-track gold in front of President Moon Jae-in.

"It was the biggest dream of mine for four years. I can't put it into words. I am so proud of it," Choi said. "Physically I am so burned out, but inside I am so happy, so proud of my whole country."

Li Jinyu of China took silver and Kim Boutin of Canada earned bronze to go with her same colored medal in the 500.

The night was filled with crashes and penalties in front of a full house at Gangneung Ice Arena, with Korean fans cheering and waving flags in support.

One of the wipeouts took down medal contender Marianne St-Gelais of Canada in the 1,500 semifinals. She tripped and fell, barely avoiding a referee as she slid across the ice and into the path of the other skaters before coming to a stop near the end padding of the rink.

In the women's semifinals, world champion Elise Christie of Britain crashed hard into the protective padding on the last turn and was carried off on a stretcher. Mike Hays, chef de mission for Britain, said Christie was on her way to the hospital for tests. She was moving and fully conscious, covering her face with her hands as she left the ice.

Christie was chasing South Korean leader Choi together with Li when Christie and the Chinese skater tangled. Li also went sliding into the padding, but got up.

Christie was later penalized and would not have advanced to the A final.

Americans Maame Biney, Lana Gehring and Jessica Kooreman were eliminated in the heats of the 1,500