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Coach: ‘Ohno Has Buried the Hatchet’

Posted March. 02, 2006 03:32,   


Is American speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno a fan of the Korean dance group H.O.T.?

Chang Kwon-ok (39) who coached Ohno on the U.S. national short track speed skating team, disclosed a few personal details about Ohno on February 28 at meeting with a Dong-A Ilbo reporter in Washington at the Korean-American radio station “Happy Sound Station” right after he returned from the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

“Ohno has buried the hatchet,” Chang said, and suggested Ohno’s actions at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics should be left behind. “Those actions were natural; any short track skater in his position would have done them. [Kim Dong-sung losing his gold medal] was the [Australian] judge’s decision. Ohno should not be blamed for it.

“One day, I overheard a song that Ohno was listening to, humming, and even dancing for the whole day, and it turned out to be an H.O.T. song that even I didn’t know of. Being of Japanese descent, he grew up and played with many Korean friends.”

Chang also mentioned Ohno’s fascination with Korean food. “One day, Ohno told me that he had a Korean dish that he really would like to have again, and when he explained it to me, I discovered it was chaptang stew. I also remember buying chun and kimchi from the market and eating it with him.” Before the Olympics, Ohno and Chang ate three Korean meals per day for an entire month.

He also said that Ohno and Kim Dong-sung have buried the hatchet. “Kim is currently staying in San Francisco and looking for a coaching position with the U.S. national team.”

At the end of the hour-and-a-half interview, he said, “If I say this, I will be a traitor in Korea,” and asked for the Korean skating community to change.

He said that the Korean skaters’ tactic of “team play”--routine for Korean skaters and an open secret to foreign skaters—was not used at the Torino Olympics. “Team play” is a tactic used to assure that a Korean skater wins the gold by having another Korean skater with the potential to win silver collide with another strong foreign contender, or by sprinting at the beginning of a race and messing up the rhythm of other skaters.

“Such practices, even my coach asked me to sacrifice when I was an active skater, are condoned because they don’t enjoy the sport and only think about winning. I am glad that it is the first Olympics that Korean short track was not only best in ability but also played with sportsmanship.”

Chang graduated from Daegu Gyeongsin High School and Korean National Sport University, he skated for the national short track team and coached the reserve skaters. In 1994, he moved to Sydney and enrolled in KVB to study architecture and moved to the U.S. afterwards.

Chang coached skaters in the Washington D.C. area as a part-time job and discovered up Shani Davis, who became the first black athlete to win a winter Olympics individual gold medal in the men’s 1,000m speed skating race in the Torino Olympics. In 2003, Chang was hired as an American national team coach and in 2005 was named the short track Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com