Head Of Korea Skating Union Apologizes For Incidents

Olivia Cheong, Jan. 26, 2018, 9:42 a.m.

South Korea's top skating official apologized Friday for incidents that have overshadowed athletes' preparations for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. "I'd like to offer my sincerest apology for causing our people concern with a series of problems surrounding our national skaters ahead of the PyeongChang Olympics," Kim Sang-hang, head of the Korea Skating Union (KSU), said in a statement.

He was referring to two major cases that have rocked the local sporting scene.

Last week, short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee was hit by her own coach during practice and briefly left the team. The KSU came under fire for its poor handling of the incident and for attempting to cover it up.

When Shim, a three-time Olympic medalist and the women's team captain, was absent for President Moon Jae-in's visit to the national team training site on Jan. 17, skating officials lied to the presidential camp that Shim had a flu.

The KSU issued a lifetime ban on the coach on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the KSU belatedly acknowledged that speed skater Noh Seon-yeong wouldn't be eligible for the women's team pursuit race at the Olympics because she hadn't earned a spot in an individual race at the Olympics. Noh was only a reserve in the 1,500 meters.

The Olympic qualification rules by the International Skating Union (ISU) state all skaters competing in team pursuit must also have qualified for at least one individual race, but the KSU blamed a mix-up in communication with the ISU for its administrative mishap.

In a dramatic turn of events Friday, Noh moved up to take an Olympic spot in the 1,500m after two of the Russian skaters above her missed the final cut by their national Olympic committee. It meant Noh would regain her eligibility for the team pursuit, but it wasn't immediately clear whether she will actually choose to compete in the Olympics, having publicly taken shots at the KSU for hanging her out to dry.

Kim said the KSU will take steps to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

"I will respond sternly to violence or any other act that violates human rights," he said. "I apologize to Noh Seon-yeong for our failure to keep her informed on the relevant rules and for breaking her heart. Fortunately, she has been awarded an Olympic spot after all, and we'll offer our best support so she can concentrate on her Olympic preparations."

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