Viktor Ahn of Russia, whose Korean name is Ahn Hyun-soo, won the gold medal in men’s 1,000 meters short-track speed skating at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday. His gold for Russia is thrilling the Olympic host nation, while heightening Korean fans’ interest in his next move after the winter sports festival.
“I am so pleased and it is like a dream that I have reclaimed a medal after eight years,” Ahn told the press conference shortly after acquiring the first gold in the sport for his adopted country Russia.
Asked whether he wants to live in Russia forever, Ahn said, “It is a long story to tell you now,” promising to disclose “everything” after the Olympics.
The gold medalist once voiced his hope for regaining his Korean nationality one day. He said he thought dual citizenship would be possible before he applied for Russian nationality.
However, he said he has no plans to return to Korea. “I am not going back to Korea. I am skating for Russia. I will live in Russia for good,” he was quoted as saying during the interview with Russian daily Kommersant.
“It was not an easy decision to leave Korea. But I loved short-track speed skating so much. I thought it would be better for me to stay in Russia,” he added.
Regarding his decision to switch allegiances, Ahn stressed that he had badly wanted to join the Olympics, and only the Olympics.
“If I had made the Vancouver Olympics team, I would not have come to Russia,” he was quoted as saying.
The 28-year-old champion, who earned three gold medals at the 2006 Olympics for his birth country Korea, decided to become a Russian national in 2011 after being excluded from the Korean national team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Ahn expressed contentment with “Russia‘s favorable environment” for training and treatment of his knee injury, saying the conditions in Russia are “far better” than in Korea.
With Russians hailing Ahn as a “national hero,” Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated him and fellow skaters for their achievement. “Good job guys, my congratulations to you all. You have a lot of work ahead of you here, so don’t relax.”
Speculation has sprung up that the Russian government would buy him an apartment in Moscow in return for his contribution at the Olympics.
The president of Russia’s skating federation has also high hopes for Ahn. “In the future, Ahn will become a coach of the Russian team,” he said during an interview with Russian news agency R-Sports earlier last week.
By Ock Hyun-ju, Intern reporter (firstname.lastname@example.org)