Short track Olympic champion Lim Hyo-jun will be racing under the Chinese flag at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
Lim’s management agency said on March 6 that the skater, who won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, chose to take Chinese citizenship because he “hasn’t been able to train anywhere in Korea for the past two years. He just wanted to find ways to put his skates back on.”
In 2019, China recruited Korean short track speed skating coach Kim Sun-tae (45) to head its national team ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Last year, it also poached retired Korean-born Russian short track speed skater Viktor Ahn, who won three golds for Korea at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino and three more for Russia in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Lim won gold in the 1,500-m competition in 2018 and bronze in the 500-m event. The following year, he scored four golds at the World Championship in Bulgaria. But he was suspended by the Korea Skating Union for a year in June 2019 as punishment for pantsing a male teammate in front of fellow skaters.
In November the same year he filed for an injunction seeking to void the suspension and it was granted on the condition that it was valid only until a ruling in a separate lawsuit filed by the victim.
But Lim was fined W3 million fine at first instance last May and withdrew the injunction because he intended to go through the suspension as soon as possible and return to the national team to compete for an Olympic ticket (US$1=W1,129).
In the other lawsuit, the case was sent by prosecutors to a higher court, which cleared him last November saying that the incident occurred while the athletes were engaged in “horseplay” before training and it could not be construed as sexual harassment.
Prosecutors appealed again and sent the case to the Supreme Court, forcing Lim to wait further on the sidelines.
A source close to Lim said, “The union told him that the suspension was still in effect. After considering the ongoing trial and suspension, it looks like he decided to obtain Chinese citizenship.” The KSU declined to comment on the status of Lim’s suspension.
Ahn set the precedent when he took Russian citizenship in 2011 after failing to gain a ticket for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The Korean men’s steam ended up winning no medals in Sochi.
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