South Korean President Lee Myung-bak presented a wristwatch to Taiwanese taekwondo star Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君) shortly after she dropped an appeal against the Seoul-based World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), but Yang decided she could not accept the gift.
“As the gift came at a sensitive time, Yang has decided to have the Chinese Taipei Taekwondo Association keep the watch,” Chinese Taipei Taekwondo Association (CTTA) president Angus Hsu (許安進) said.
The Chinese-language China Times reported yesterday that Lee asked Wu Ching-kuo (吳經國), Taiwan’s representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), during their meeting in Seoul last month to give the watch to Yang.
“Lee’s move was a goodwill gesture, but the timing was a bit sensitive. To stem unnecessary speculation, I agreed with Yang’s decision to send the watch to the association,” Hsu said in an interview.
Yang was disqualified from last year’s Asian Games for allegedly using extra sensors on her socks, though replays of footage showed she had removed the sensors in question before the bout at the request of the referee.
The 25-year-old athlete filed an appeal against the disqualification with the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Dec. 8 after the CTTA’s appeal with the WTF failed to get the desired response.
However, shortly before the CAS’ scheduled first hearing of the case on Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, Yang announced her decision to drop the appeal to focus her energy on preparing for next year’s London Olympics, in which she has already secured a berth.
Speculation then arose about Yang being coerced into dropping the appeal, which eventually led to Hsu filing a slander suit against his predecessor Chen Chien-ping (陳建平), who accused Hsu of forcing Yang to drop the appeal.
According to the China Times, Lee took the initiative to praise Yang as an outstanding athlete and asked Wu to pass on the watch to Yang on his behalf.
Wu told the newspaper that Lee offered the gift to encourage Yang to continue her pursuit of athletic excellence and even win a gold medal at the London Olympic Games.
Lee was meeting Wu to thank him for helping South Korea win the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Immediately after returning to Taipei in the middle of last month, Wu informed the CTTA and asked it to have Yang pick up the gift, but because it came shortly after the withdrawal of her appeal, Yang rejected the offer.
To avoid seeming impolite by rejecting a gift from a foreign head of state, the CTTA decided to accept the gift on her behalf and finally gave it to Yang during a London Olympics qualifier for Asian male taekwondo athletes last week.
Yang wrote to Hsu after receiving the gift that while she appreciated Lee’s compliment, she could not keep the watch because the CTTA’s achievements were not solely hers.
“Therefore, I want to present the gift to the CTTA to hold on to permanently,” Yang wrote in the letter.
Her media manager said Yang never opened the gift box because she did not think it was something that belonged to her.
“Yang will have the gift delivered to the CTTA in the next couple of days,” her media manager said.
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