South Korea’s skating union has apologized for souring the mood ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics after a coach was banned for life for striking a short track athlete and a speed skater almost lost her spot at the Games due to an administrative error.
Korea Skating Union (KSU) president Kim Sang-hang said in a statement that the union would take steps to avoid further problems as South Korea prepares to host next month’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The incidents sparked a huge backlash in South Korea, with about 200 online petitions calling for the KSU to be reformed or disbanded lodged with the presidential Blue House.
The KSU has seen more than its fair share of controversy over the years, with allegations of favoritism and athlete mistreatment prompting the government to order a review of the governing body after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
“I sincerely apologize for the issues regarding the national skating team ahead of the Winter Olympics,” Kim said.
“We promise there will be no repeat of these problems and will come up with reform measures and implement them as soon as possible,” Kim added.
The KSU on Thursday handed out a lifetime ban to Shim Suk-hee’s coach after he admitted to physically assaulting the 20-year-old, who won gold, silver and bronze medals in Sochi.
Public anger with the KSU grew when it emerged speed skater Noh Seon-yeong was told only last week that she would be unable to compete in the team pursuit in Pyeongchang because she had not been able to earn a spot in an individual event.
The KSU was criticized for failing to give Noh the chance to qualify, but it blamed the oversight on miscommunication with the International Skating Union.
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