I can’t believe it, aw, geez. It’s a really good feeling, but it has to set in first. It takes me a while before I’m like, ‘Holy cow!’ —Maame Biney
KEARNS — Maame Biney’s euphoria after earning a spot on the 2018 U.S. short track Olympic team was so captivating, it took much longer than usual for the press to begin peppering her with questions in the post-race interview.
She squealed and giggled and danced around the narrow interview walkway.
“I can’t believe it, aw, geez,” the 17-year-old said after securing her spot on the 2018 Olympic team by crushing the competition in Saturday’s 500-meter race. “It’s a really good feeling, but it has to set in first. It takes me a while before I’m like, ‘Holy cow!’”
Biney won all but one of her six 500-meter races throughout the day, including earning victories in both finals. She earned a winning time of 43.291 in the first 500-meter final, and a personal best of 43.161 in the second final.
She said that after taking second in the semifinals, she wanted to come out fast and try to lock up her spot on the team with that race. After she crossed the finish line, she was celebrating when she got a little carried away and fell.
“When I crossed the finish line, I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Biney. “I was like, ‘I got first, that’s so cool.’ And then, when I realized I made the Olympic team, I started cheering like crazy, and then I made my epic fall. So, yeah, you’re welcome.”
She burst into laughter again.
Biney moved to Utah this year, living with a host family in Park City so she could devote herself to making her Olympic dream a reality. Born in Ghana, she moved to the U.S. when she was 5 with her father, Kweku, whom she thanked as she celebrated making the team. “I want to give special thanks to my dad,” she said. “He’s been through everything. I’m amazed by him. I want to thank him a lot for everything.” Living in Utah has allowed her to be single-minded about her training, but it left her without her biggest fan.
“I haven’t been home since October,” she said. “It’s the longest time that I’ve not been home. It’s been really hard on him, and hard on me. He gives me that really good mindset. Before that, he’s been through all of the practices with me, watching me every single day and giving me tips. I love him for that.”
Kweku Biney wasn’t the only parent collecting praise from a 2018 Olympian.
John-Henry Krueger, who secured his spot on Friday with a victory in the 1,500, earned a place in the 500-meter event with a third-place finish in the first race and a win in the second race.
“To be honest,” he said when asked about jumping onto the wall surrounding the rink to embrace his mother after Friday’s win, “I was almost more happy to see her smile and be happy than anything. She’s put so much time, effort and money into my career, and I’m glad it could pay off.”
Krueger said he celebrated making his first Olympic team with some stretching and meditation.
“It’s pretty impossible,” he said of trying not to celebrate too early. “That’s what the breathing meditation is for. It cuts some of that in half, but it’s natural (to be excited).”
He received a congratulatory text from his older brother, Cole, who is hoping to compete with Hungary in the PyeongChang Games.
“He was very proud,” he said.
Two other athletes earned spots on the 2018 team — Olympic veteran J.R. Celski and newcomer Aaron Tran.
Both men are, coincidentally, from Federal Way, Washington. Celski earned his spot with a second-place finish in the 1,500, while Tran earned his with a second-place finish in the 500.
“It was amazing (to qualify with Aaron),” said Celski. “We went to the same school and now we are going to the Olympics together. I’m so happy for him and his family, and everyone that supports him.”