South Xtra: Peters brothers skate in fast lane

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Heidi Krueger received a call one day more than 15 years ago asking her if her son, Cole, would be interested in coming to the Airport Ice Arena in Moon Township to try short-track speedskating.

Cole Krueger, who was 6 years old at the time, had only learned a few figure skating moves from his mother, who teaches the sport professionally.

But he decided to give it a try, and the rest, as they say, is history.

"Within five minutes, he came over to the glass where we were sitting, his eyes were lit up and he said, 'Mom, I found my thing,'" Heidi Krueger recalled.

Cole Krueger, now 22, has continued to compete competitively since that time, and his younger brother, John-Henry, began taking up the sport two years after his brother started.

Both will be competing in U.S. Olympic speed skating trials Jan. 2-5 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"From the first time I hit the ice I knew this is what I wanted to do, " Cole Krueger said. "I didn't even have skates -- I had to rent hockey skates at the rink. But I was hooked right away when they told me I could skate as fast as I wanted to and not get yelled at."

Both Kruegers grew up in the McMurray section of Peters Township and trained with the Pittsburgh Speed Skating Club.

But two-and-a-half years ago, Cole and John-Henry, who is now 19, moved to Salt Lake City to train with the U.S. National team. After a year, they began training at an elite private academy, Salt Lake International Speedskating Academy, under the direction of coach Jae Su Chun.

Chun was formerly the coach of the U.S. Olympic short-track team before he resigned in October of 2012 amidst allegations by some of his skaters of physical and emotional abuse. But the Kruegers were nothing but complimentary of their coach.

"He's been 100 percent supportive," John-Henry Krueger said. "Every medal I've won is because of him."

Winning medals is something John-Henry Krueger has become accustomed to doing over the past few seasons.

He has won at least one medal in each of the past three World Cup seasons, including a second-place finish in the 1,500-meter distance in Torino, Italy, earlier this month. He has more Senior World Cup medals than any U.S. skater other than J.R. Celski.

Krueger and Celski were both part of the 5,000-meter relay team that became the first U.S. team in the 16 years the World Cup has been in its current format to win the event back in September in Shanghai.

Cole Krueger has also been very successful, making two Junior World Championship U.S. teams and finishing as the highest-placing U.S. skater in both.

Now the duo will set their sights on their ultimate dream -- to make the U.S. Olympic team.

"It's everything I've been training for over the past 15 years," John-Henry Krueger said. "The World Cup is important, but I'd rather be in one Olympics than 10 World Cups."

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