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(2nd LD) Olympic short track champion Shim Suk-hee banned for 2 months for off-ice trouble, Beijing status in limbo

All News 19:48 December 21, 2021

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Yonhap) -- Two-time Olympic short track speed skating champion Shim Suk-hee was slapped with a two-month ban for disparaging coaches and teammates Tuesday, a decision that, barring a successful appeal, will keep her out of the Beijing Winter Games in February.

South Korean short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee speaks to reporters before attending a disciplinary hearing by the Korea Skating Union (KSU) at the KSU's headquarters in Seoul on Dec. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

The Korea Skating Union (KSU) held a disciplinary meeting Tuesday at its Seoul headquarters to hand down the punishment on Shim, who denigrated members of the South Korean team in expletive-laden text exchanges with a national team coach during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

Their text messages, leaked to the media in October, were included in an argument submitted by legal representatives for Cho Jae-beom, another ex-national team coach then under trial for alleged sexual and physical assault of Shim.

With the Beijing Winter Olympics scheduled to open on Feb. 4, the two-month penalty will make the 24-year-old Shim ineligible unless she can get the ban reduced via a court injunction or an appeal with the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC).

In this file photo from March 19, 2021, South Korean short track speed skaters Shim Suk-hee (L) and Choi Min-jeong compete 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)

Shim, who has won a relay gold medal at each of the past two Olympics, will be in a time crunch. The KSOC's next disciplinary meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14. The deadline to submit the Olympic short track entry is Jan. 24.

Shim attended the hearing but had few words for the media before entering the KSU building, only saying she would "state facts and cooperate with the proceedings in good faith."

Shim didn't respond when asked whether she would apologize to the national team.

Kim Seong-cheol, head of the KSU's disciplinary committee, said Shim had "caused damage to the dignity of sport" with her actions.

Kim acknowledged Shim was being punished for having her personal messages leaked in media, but he and the rest of the committee focused only on the fact that those messages had entered the public discourse and Shim herself had acknowledged her wrongdoing.

"We were left with little choice but to penalize her," Kim said. "We didn't necessarily consider her status for the Olympics. We only determined the length of the penalty based on her actions.

A source close to Shim said Tuesday the skater will consider "all options available" in response to the ruling, including filing for a court injunction or appealing with the KSOC.

In the same text chain with her coach, Shim also hinted she would try to trip up a teammate, Choi Min-jeong, if they ended up in the same race.

In the women's 1,000m final at the PyeongChang 2018, Shim and Choi got tangled up as Choi tried to make a pass on the outside over the final stretch. Both fell down and crashed into the wall. Shim was disqualified and Choi ended up in fourth place.

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)

Choi accused Shim of deliberately causing the crash and pointed to Shim's texts with the coach as proof. Following its weekslong probe, though, the KSU's investigation committee cleared Shim of race-fixing charges on Dec. 8.

The KSU committee said, while Shim had pushed off Choi's left arm on purpose, it couldn't determine whether Shim had done it to protect herself or to keep Choi from winning a medal.

In this file photo from Feb. 22, 2018, Shim Suk-hee of South Korea (R) consoles her teammate, Choi Min-jeong, after their collision 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)

When these allegations first surfaced in October, Shim was dropped from the national team and didn't compete in any of the four International Skating Union World Cup events.

After allegations against Shim first emerged, Choi publicly called on Shim to stop texting her and calling her in a belated attempt to apologize. Choi's agency said Shim had caused Choi "an extreme emotional distress" just by trying to reach its client.

South Korean short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee leaves the Korea Skating Union's headquarters in Seoul after attending a disciplinary hearing on Dec. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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