S. Koreans vent fury at Russia’s Victor

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VICTOR-AHNSEOUL, February 17 – The Olympic victory of a Korean speed skater competing for Russia has triggered outrage in South Korea, with public anger directed squarely at the national skating body.

The website of the Korean Skating Union (KSU) crashed Sunday under the volume of furious messages blaming its officials for the “defection” of Ahn Hyun-Soo to the Russian team.

Ahn had become a sporting hero in South Korea after winning three golds at the 2006 Winter Games.

But beset by injury problems and after falling out with South Korean skating officials, he fast-tracked Russian citizenship in 2011, took the name Victor Ahn, and competed at Sochi as a Russian athlete.

His gold medal win in the 1,000-metre short track on Saturday provoked a furious response in South Korea — but with the country’s skating officials rather than with Ahn himself.

Monday’s newspapers all trumpeted his achievement, while heaping scorn on the “incompetent” KSU.

“Vindication for Victor,” ran the headline in the JoongAng Daily.

Ahn’s falling out with the KSU rested on claims of factional infighting in the South Korean national team based on fierce university loyalties.

Monday’s edition of the Sports Seoul newspaper devoted three pages — under headings like “His choice was right” — to lamenting the turn of events that led to Ahn crossing the finish line in Sochi in a Russian team strip.

And an editorial in the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said it was time “to shed light on the irregularities in our sports system” before the 2018 Winter Games, which will be held in the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang.

Even President Park Geun-Hye has got involved, demanding an inquiry into the reasons behind Ahn’s decision to switch national allegiances.

“We need to see whether his problem was caused by irregularities and structural issues in our sports sector, like factionalism, influence-peddling and corruption involving referees,” Park said Friday in a meeting with sports ministry officials.

The public response in South Korea largely mirrored the media line of applauding Ahn and condemning the KSU.

“We all root for you, Ahn Hyun-Soo! I’m so happy that you won gold instead of our corrupt South Korean team!” wrote one contributor to the overloaded comment forum on one of many internet news portals where the Ahn debate generated enormous traffic.

“Shame on you, Korean Skating Union. You are the one who kicked Ahn out of Korea and you only have yourself to blame for this whole debacle,” wrote another.

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