Q&A with John-Henry Krueger
What’s your family like?
My father, Bryan, is a corporate accountant. My mother, Heidi, is a competitive figure skating coach. My older brother Cole is a short track speed skater, representing Hungary.
In your hometown, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?
When I go home I go to my dad's boss's farm for target practice. I enjoy going to the Pittsburgh Paints Arena to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins. The strip district near downtown Pittsburgh is a street comprised of local food shops and cultural artisans. I also enjoy visiting the historic amusement park, Kennywood. I also like to take my dogs to Mingo Park (a large local county park). While there are many great restaurants in Pittsburgh I prefer my mom’s home cooking.
What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?
6:00 a.m. I usually take naps after an early morning training session. I try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
How much time do you spend training each day?
Every week is different depending on the training cycle, but a normal day can consist of 6-8 hours of training.
What’s your typical training day/schedule?
On a normal day I will wake up at 5:30 a.m. and get to the ice rink to start my off ice warm up at 6 a.m. The warm up consists of jogging, dynamic stretches, and light skating drill exercises to prepare for ice training. After warmup, I will go on the ice for two hours of training. After ice training the team will have off ice training that is commonly called dryland. This training can consist of weights, running, power jumps, and skating movements. After training I will go home to rest and eat. The second training session usually starts later in the day. In the afternoon we will start dryland training first at 4 p.m. and that can last one to two hours. Then we will get back on the ice to skate for another two hours.
How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
A daily goal for me is usually a technical issue in my skating technique or balance on the ice. I only focus on that one problem or goal at a time. I try not to think about tomorrow's problems or challenges. I try to work one day at a time.
What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?
I really like weight training. I only do it 2-3 times a week. While it remains very challenging for me it gives me a break from the off ice dryland training I do so much of.
What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?
The hardest training I remember in my career was Sand Camp in Eerie, Pennsylvania. It was only off ice training. There were two dryland sessions each day, but each session lasted 4-6 hours. Lots of running and skating drills. The camps lasted about 5 days.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
How much hard work and time is required to perform at the World Cup/Olympic level. Short track speed skating can look easy, but that’s only because athletes train many hours a day to make it look smooth and relaxed. I imagine that is how all the other sports work too. The best make it look easy.
Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?
I don't think so. While I am open to new training ideas and philosophies I feel very stable and set in my training philosophy. I’ve been training for a long time so I've been able to hone in on what training works for me and what doesn't.
Have you ever been seriously injured?
I have been very fortunate not to have any serious injuries in my skating career. I try to take care of myself every day to hopefully avoid this.
What does a typical day of eating look like during training?
During the training season I won't follow any special diet or nutrition plan. I try to get a healthy moderate mix of all the food groups. I don't see food as a plan. Food is an enjoyable part of life for me. I don't eat too much during training. The only regimen I will follow is to get some source of protein in me after a workout and to stay hydrated.
Since I wake up early and I don't have time to prepare a full breakfast will just have a granola bar or protein shake in the morning, I try to keep it simple.
During lunch I can have a pretty broad menu to work with. I will make something as simple a chicken salad or something more complex like a fish curry. It all depends on the day and what I feel like eating.
Since training finishes late it is very common for the team to eat out together for dinner. There are so many different Korean foods to choose from. It's different every night.
What’s your go-to snack?
Kimbap. It is very common Korean snack food. It is seaweed wrapped rice roll with meats and vegetables. The meats can vary from beef to tuna.
If you are to indulge, what's your go-to meal?
Normally, when I have a cheat meal it will be a Korean BBQ meal. It comes with lots of side dishes. My favorite snack would be sour gummy candy. I try to limit myself.
What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing skating?
Earliest memory of my sport was training at a local ice rink near my house when I was very young. My passion evolved the longer I stayed in the sport. I liked racing and I was very competitive naturally.
What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?
Watching the 2006 Torino Winter Games. It is a huge personal goal of mine to not only compete in but to medal in the Olympic Games.
Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?
I don’t think there was a single defining moment. It all accumulated after many successful races.
What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?
The way we lean on our very thin skating blades to turn in the corners is very intense. We very often pull close to 2gs in the corners. The sport is growing and many countries are competitive now. Racing strategy is very important now.
Are there any misconceptions about your sport that you would like to clear up?
Many people believe short track looks easy. The only time people watch short track in America is during the Olympics. They are only watching the best of the best who make it look effortless. It can take over a decade of training to skate at this level.
Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?
Over the course of my career I have been fortunate to work with many coaches. The relationship with one’s coach is critical to a successful athlete. This coming season I will be working with Coach Nam Kyu Zo.
Who do you socialize with most within your sport or any sport?
I mainly socialize with my training team in Korea and my teammates in America.
Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist? If so, how did it help you?
Yes, but very a very long time ago. She had a very positive influence on how to prepare mentally for races.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
In terms of my sport, the best advice I received was to experiment with everything. Technique, equipment, training philosophies. There is a short window of opportunity in the sport to be successful. Try to find everything that helps you grow in the sport personally.
What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?
Because of my skating career I had to become very independent at a very young age. However in the long run I see it as advantage and had a positive impact on the person I am today.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
I don't really have a fear of anything, but I do hate to lose in a race.
What athlete in any sport has been your greatest source of inspiration?
Usain Bolt has been a favorite of mine over the years. I admire his relaxed, nonchalant, yet confident demeanor.
What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in short track?
To start off learning the basic techniques and to be patient with learning them. All skaters at the Olympic level start the season with the basics. You can never be too good for them.
What are your favorite sports teams?
Being from Pittsburgh it is almost mandatory to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I also enjoy watching the Pittsburgh Penguins when I'm back in town.
Which Summer Olympic sport would you like to try?
I think I would enjoy some of the track and field events like the long jump and the 100 meter dash.
What are your pre-competition rituals?
I don’t have many. I just try to take care of my body every day the same way I would before a competition. So nothing really changes.
What languages do you speak?
I speak English and am very very very slowly learning Korean.
What charities do you support? How did you become involved?
Ballou Skies. My brother and I first learned of Ballou Skies through our attorney and agent Brian Koeberle. A business associate of his began this charity for his son who afflicted with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. My brother and I participate in their local fundraising events whenever we can. This charity has significantly impacted the treatment of this disease.
If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?
I would probably be pursuing my goal of becoming an international English teacher.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
Sleeping in late and going into downtown Seoul to meet with friends.
How do you unwind after a competition?
I tend to stay indoors for a day or two to catch up on sleep. Short track races tend to be very stressful and last all day.
Do you have any fears?
I am deathly afraid of heights.
Do you like to travel? What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?
Traveling is a huge passion of mine. Traveling to China has been very eye opening and influential. Experiencing different cultures and lifestyles broadens one's horizons and perspectives.
What's something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?
I feel really grossed out by touching dirty dishes in the sink.
What are some of your hobbies?
Listening to music is a huge part of who I am helps me cope with all the different situations I face in life. Music is something I love to share with others but there are also times I prefer to listen alone.
Do you have any celebrity crushes?
Kim Sarang. She is a very famous Korean actress in South Korea.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Inglorious Bastards, John Wick, and Life is Beautiful
What are your favorite TV shows?
Rick and Morty, Star Trek: The Next Generation, One Piece
Are you a fan of K-Pop music?
Yes, there are many Korean artists I like such as ZICO, ZionT, Big Bang, Dynamic Duo, Crush, and Primary, to name just a few.
What are your personal care indulgences? What are your top five beauty/grooming products?
Since moving to Korea I have adopted some of the cultural lifestyle routines regarding skincare. I have been taking care of my skin a lot more since my move to Korea.
Outside of training for your sport, what physical routine makes you feel your best?
I love deep tissue massages and going to saunas for recovery.
What are five must-have items you always keep in your gym bag?
Shaker Bottle, Protein bars, rubber exercise bands, foam roller, and tennis ball for hip foam rolling.
Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?
Yes, kimchi is a very common food in my diet. I enjoy almost all Korean food.
Have you ever done karaoke? What’s your go-to karaoke song?
No, I do not enjoy karaoke. Unfortunately for me, it remains a very popular and common activity in Korea.
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?
To win an Olympic medal would be considered a success to me.