SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Korea Bizwire) — Reports that star short-track speed skater Shin Suk-hee went missing after allegedly being physically assaulted by her coach have once again reaffirmed the sport as the problem child of the Winter Olympics.
Ever since short-track speed skating was included as a Winter Olympics competition in 1992, South Korean representatives have put on a Jekyll and Hyde performance on and off the ice. Despite racking up medals, teams have constantly found themselves mired in scandals, ranging from infighting and gambling to violence and even a case of underage drinking.
A mindset prioritizing medals above all else is believed to be endemic throughout the sport, and is being pointed to as a significant reason why sporting authorities have so far been unable to completely put an end to misbehavior.
In 2004, the entire women’s short-track speed skating team departed from their dormitory en masse as a protest against their coaches, who were alleged to have subjected the athletes to numerous counts of verbal abuse all the while interfering in their personal lives to a degree described as “inhumane”.
Though the then head of the Korea Skating Union took responsibility for the debacle and resigned, the evidence suggests the move has made little if any impact.
At the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics, controversy over factionalism within the short-track speed skating delegation resulted in an apology being issued by the new head of the Korea Skating Union.
A cause for apology arose again in 2010, when a number of coaches and skaters were found to have colluded with one another in their bid to be nominated for the national team.
Reports of a violent confrontation between skaters during a training session in 2015, underage drinking by a skater below the drinking age limit in November of the same year, and the entire team, coaches and skaters, booked on charges of gambling in 2016 round out the litany of unsavory behavior in the past.
The Korea Skating Union has been criticized for punishing these malfeasances with little more than a slap on the wrist, as the national team has been highly successful in the quadrennial hunt for gold, silver and bronze.
While the organization has promised an inquiry into the circumstances behind Shim Suk-hee’s departure from the Olympic training grounds, based on the Korea Skating Union’s own track record for dealing with these fiascos, few believe in its ability to reach an effective resolution, especially with the Winter Games merely weeks away.
Shim is the captain of the women’s short-track speed skating team, and won a gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics as a member of the 3000m relay team.
The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics kick off on February 9.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)