Yoon Joo-tak, a lawyer representing South Korean short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee, speaks to reporters outside the Seoul Eastern District Court building in Seoul on Wednesday, after attending a hearing on Shim's application for a court injunction against a two-month ban on the skater handed down by the Korea Skating Union. (Yonhap)
Two-time Olympic short track speed skating champion Shim Suk-hee launched her last-minute legal battle against a recent two-month ban on Wednesday, trying to salvage a chance to compete at next month's Beijing Winter Games.
It was last Thursday that Shim filed for a court injunction against the penalty handed down by the Korea Skating Union (KSU) in December, ruling her out of the Feb. 4-20 Winter Olympics. The Seoul Eastern District Court held a hearing on Wednesday and is expected to make its decision sometime next week.
Shim was suspended for making disparaging comments on her teammates and coaching staff during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the details of which were found in leaked text message exchanges with a coach.
Yoon Joo-tak, Shim's attorney, argued on Wednesday that since those text messages were leaked illegally, Shim shouldn't be penalized for them.
When those texts surfaced last October, Shim was immediately dropped from the national team prior to the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup season, during which Olympic quota places would be determined. Yoon claimed that the KSU had already punished Shim by keeping her off the team and handing down a two-month suspension amounts to double punishment.
"This two-month ban doesn't just keep Shim off the national team. It will make her ineligible for the Beijing Winter Olympics,"
Yoon said. "She ended up suffering irreparable damage."
Kim Gyeong-hyeon, the lawyer representing the KSU, said the skating federation rightly regarded Shim's action and behavior as something that caused damage to the integrity and dignity of the sport.
"Shim even acknowledged her wrongdoing and publicly apologized for it," Kim said.
Kim also said keeping Shim out of the World Cup races cannot be considered punishment, adding, "The KSU had to protect other skaters (who had been subjected to Shim's denigration) and it had to take action given the magnitude of World Cup events."
The two sides plan to submit additional materials to strengthen their cases by Sunday.
Even if the court sides with Shim, the skater will have to clear another hurdle before securing a spot in the Olympics.
The KSU will reserve the final decision on the Olympic entries, based on the quota places that country secured during the World Cup season. If the KSU determines that Shim, who hasn't been competing or training in a structured setting for a few months, is in no shape to skate for the country, then it can still leave her off the national team even if the two-month ban is nullified.
The deadline to finalize Olympic-bound entries is Jan. 24. (Yonhap)