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Triumphant Short Track Team Returns to Controversy

Posted March. 31, 2010 14:49,   


Though the national short track speed skating team reaped seven gold medals at the world championships and the team title, it got a rather gloomy welcome back home.

Coaching staff, skaters and team personnel were applauded at the entrance of Incheon International Airport Tuesday afternoon, but all just exchanged awkward smiles. Receiving a flood of questions from reporters, competitor Lee Jung-su (Dankook University), 21, said, “I`ve nothing to say. I want to rest today.”

In the run-up to the world championships, Lee, who won two medals in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, was dropped from the team due to an ankle injury. Kim Seong-il (Dankook University), 20, who was ranked just below Lee, said he would not join the event to focus on the relay. As a result, the burden fell on Kwak Yoon-gy (Yonsei University), 21.

Ahn Ki-won, the father of three-time Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-soo, then posted on the Web site of his son’s fan club, “Lee dropped out of the event not because of injury but because of pressure from his coaching staff.”

Ahn Ki-won said the world should know the corruption in the coaching staff and the Korea Skating Union, which forced Lee to drop out.

In response, the skating union said, “Lee Jung-su and Kim Seong-il were not included on the roster for individual events.”

Because of growing suspicion, however, the Korea Sports Council has begun an investigation at the request of the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Ministry.

Lee said, “I don’t want you to ask me questions about the world championships. I will talk at the Korea Sports Council’s investigation.”

“My ankle is fine. The event was (psychologically) tough.”

National short track coach Kim Ki-hoon, who returned with the team, said, “I excluded Lee Jung-su because he complained of ankle pain and told this to the union. There was no external pressure. I will faithfully answer questions at the Korea Sports Council investigation. If there is a misunderstanding, it will soon be addressed.”

A council source said, “We will call in athletes, coaching staff and related people to check all details, including whether there was any external pressure.”