In this file photo from May 6, 2021, South Korean short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee takes a moment after winning the women's 1,000m final in the 2021-22 season national team trails at Taeneung International Rink in Seoul. (Yonhap)
South Korean Olympic short track speed skating champion Shim Suk-hee has been dropped from the national team, the sport’s national federation said Monday, over controversial text messages suggesting a possible race fixing during the 2018 Winter Games on home ice.
The Korea Skating Union (KSU) said Shim has been “separated from” the rest of the national team at the Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, 90 kilometers south of Seoul, after the athletes, including Shim herself, and coaches concluded they wouldn‘t be able to train together under the current situation.
Shim will also be held out of the new International Skating Union (ISU) Short Track Speed Skating World Cup season, which kicks off in Beijing on Oct. 21. Countries will earn quota places for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics based on their performances at the four World Cup events through the end of November.
The KSU reached the decision after Shim’s expletive-laden text exchanges with a coach during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics were reported by an online outlet last week. In their chat, Shim repeatedly mocked her teammates, Choi Min-jeong and Kim A-lang.
Shim also told the coach she would try to make Choi “the female Steven Bradbury.”
This was in reference to the Australian short tracker who captured an improbable gold medal in the men‘s 1,000 meters at the 2002 Winter Olympics, when all of his opponents went down in a last corner pileup.
Shim and Choi got tangled up and fell over the final corner in the women’s 1,000m final at the 2018 Olympics. Shim was disqualified, and Choi ended up in fourth place.
With the collision originally seen as being unfortunate now being viewed in a much different light, Shim is faced with questions that she tripped up Choi out of spite, as Choi was trying to make a move on the outside.
The KSU said it hasn‘t determined whether there had been any intent on Shim’s part in that instance and it will have to investigate further.
Shim issued an apology through her agency Monday.
“I‘d like to sincerely apologize for disappointing and hurting so many people with my immature actions and words,” Shim said. “In particular, I’d like to apologize to Kim A-lang, Choi Min-jeong, my coaches, who must have been shocked after reading news reports (about the situation).”
Shim denied she had done anything malicious in that 1,000m race with Choi.
“Choi and I both like to make our passes on the outside at the last minute,” Shim said. “In that race, it was just unfortunate we crashed into each other.”
This is a stunning fall from grace for the two-time Olympic gold medalist, who cut a sympathetic figure in 2018 by revealing she‘d been sexually and physically assaulted by one of the national team coaches, Cho Jae-beom.
Cho has since been sentenced to 13 years in prison. Shim’s text exchanges were included in an argument submitted by Cho‘s lawyer for the trial and were leaked to media.
Shim blamed Cho’s “ruthless assault” in the lead-up to the PyeongChang Olympics for her erratic behavior.
“I was showing symptoms of a concussion after getting beat up by Cho Jae-beom, and, physically and mentally, I was extremely unstable,” Shim said. “I failed to control my anger and became aggressive toward others. To this day, I regret such immature behavior.” (Yonhap)