John-Henry Krueger, a short-track speed skater who won a silver medal for the United States at this past Winter Olympics, has decided to switch his national allegiance and compete for Hungary out of financial concerns, as first reported by USA Today Sports.
"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 told USA Today Sports in an email.
"I will be able to pay for basic necessities like groceries, rent, apartment furnishings, clothes, and equipment without putting myself and my family in debt. The coaching and team in Hungary is competitive with any in the world. I am excited to see what I can achieve when these negative variables are removed."
Krueger's mother, Heidi, claims that she and her husband spent over $70,000 (more than R860,000) to fund his training.
The Kruegers had recently requested that US Speedskating fund John-Henry's training expenses for the next four years, which would have ended up around $28,000 (around R350,000) annually, but their request was denied.
The chief executive of US Speedskating, Ted Morris, told USA Today Sports, "We are not going to force anyone to wear the Stars and Stripes who doesn't want to. We think it is an honor and a privilege. This is disappointing, but we are not in a position ever to guarantee an athlete money over a four-year period."
From a competitive standpoint, losing Krueger to Hungary will hurt the United States, as USA Today Sports notes that he is considered one of speedskating's rising stars, and a player who will contend for medals in the future.