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Internal Conflict Deepens for Short Track Team

Posted April. 21, 2010 05:43,   


Internal conflict in the national short-track speed skating team has reached a boiling point over alleged external pressure and purported harmony between players and coaches.

The controversy over external pressure started with a March 24 online posting by the father of three-time Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-soo saying, “Lee Jung-su’s decision to drop out of the men’s individual competition at the Short Track World Championships was caused by corruption in the Korea Skating Union.” This has taken the dispute toward a rather unexpected direction. Since the posting was uploaded, Lee, 21, and fellow teammate Kwak Yoon-gy, 21, have made conflicting statements.

The Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry, the Korea Olympic Committee and the skating union formed a joint investigation committee last week to conduct a probe. The figures in the controversy, however, have held separate news conferences to make their case, adding to the confusion.

National team member Sung Si-bak, 23, posted on his personal homepage Sunday a video file and online posting intended to support Kwak’s claim. Coach Chun Jae-mok, who trained Kwak, held a news conference at the Mokdong Indoor Skating Rink in Seoul to back up Kwak’s stance. Chun said Lee asked him for help ahead of the 1,000-meter semifinals at the national team trials in April last year, which the coach allegedly accepted. In return, Lee agreed to make a concession to Kwak on the right to participate in individual competitions at the Olympics. Then, Lee is known to have broken this promise.

Kwak, who accompanied Chun at the news conference, said, “(At the team trials) I planned to block rivals skating from behind at the coach’s instruction. As shown (in the 1,000-meter qualifier when Lee almost fell), I could have passed Lee had there been no instruction.”

Chun denied that Lee’s decision to snub the individual race at the world championships was due to pressure, saying the skater made the decision on his own after talks with Dankook University coach Choi Jae-seok and national team’s assistant coach Song Jae-geun.