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Olympic fate of beleaguered short tracker likely to be determined this week

Sports 16:06 December 06, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korean short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee's fate for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics could be determined this week.

The Korea Skating Union (KSU) said Monday it has completed its investigation into race-fixing allegations against Shim and will announce its findings Wednesday.

Shim, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, may be slapped with a suspension that will rule her out of the Feb. 4-20 Olympics.

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 trials at Taeneung International Rink in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The beleaguered skater is being accused of intentionally tripping her teammate, Choi Min-jeong, out of spite during the women's 1000m final at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Allegations surfaced in October when an online news outlet disclosed a series of expletive-laden text exchanges between Shim and one of her coaches.

In their chat, Shim repeatedly mocked Choi and another teammate, Kim A-lang. Shim also boasted she had openly cheered on Chinese skater Qu Chunyu to beat Choi in their 500m quarterfinals at the 2018 Olympics.

In one exchange, the coach suggested Shim try to create "a female Steven Bradbury," and Shim agreed, "Yes. Let's do that."

Bradbury, an Australian skater, captured an unlikely gold medal in the men's 1,000m at the 2002 Winter Olympics when all of his opponents went down in a last corner pileup. It wasn't immediately clear whether Shim meant she would try to create a massive collision so that someone other than Choi would win the gold in the 1,000m or she would seek to take Choi down when she had a chance.

In this file photo from Feb. 22, 2018, Choi Min-jeong of South Korea (L) falls after a collision with her teammate, Shim Suk-hee, during the women's 1,000m short track speed skating final at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul. (Yonhap)

In that 1,000m final, Shim and Choi got tangled up as Choi tried to make a pass on the outside in the last stretch. Both fell down and crashed into the wall. Shim was disqualified, and Choi ended up in fourth place.

Following the race, the coach sent a text to Shim to congratulate her on taking down Choi. Choi's agency has pointed to these text exchanges as proof Shim had malicious intent when she took the ice next to Choi.

The KSU had dropped Shim from the national team prior to the International Skating Union (ISU) Short Track Speed Skating World Cup season, which ran from October to November.

Shim won the South Korean Olympic team trials in May and, under normal circumstances, would have been considered a strong medal contender in multiple races.

Instead, Shim has suffered a stunning fall from grace. She once cut a sympathetic figure in 2018 when she revealed 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 before they were leaked to media.

In this file photo from March 19, 2021, South Korean short track speed skaters Choi Min-jeong (L) and Shim Suk-hee race in the women's 1,000m final at the 36th Korea Skating Union President's Cup at Uijeongbu Indoor Skating Arena in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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