▲ Viktor Ahn on the Podium in 2014. By Pawel Maryanov - Flickr: IMG_6497, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31634097
It is no secret that South Korea has dominated short track speed skating at the Winter Olympics, amassing a total of 42 medals in the sport since its inclusion for the first time at the Games in Albertville, France in 1992.
Among those 42 medals, half have been gold.
With the Games set to get underway in Pyeongchang in two weeks time, the first time the Winter Olympics have been held in Korea, storylines have been gaining steam in recent months.
One such story includes the ban of Russia to participate as a country at these Games, following a doping scandal which saw 1,000 athletes caught for positive drug tests.
One of the athletes affected by the ban is Victor Ahn, born Ahn Hyun-soo, who competed for South Korea for the first time in Salt Lake City in 2002 when he was only sixteen years old.
His Olympic career took off four years later at the Games in Turin, where he became only the second Korean athlete to win three gold medals at a single Olympics.
However, Ahn had a fallout with his coach, which led to divisions within the team. Two years later, Ahn was injured, and then failed to qualify for Vancouver 2010.
He was not ready to finish his career yet, and decided to move to Russia, whom he started competing for in 2012.
He went on to win three gold medals for Russia at the last Olympics in Sochi, becoming the first to do so for his newly adopted country.
Now at the age of 32, this year’s Games were a chance for Ahn to make a homecoming of sorts, knowing that it would not be an easy task, as many in the country still feel he turned his back on his native land following the scandal which engulfed the skating team all those years ago.
In a news report from last year, Ahn, when considering his return to South Korea for the Games, was quoted as saying “I think the crowd’s reaction may bother me, but I can’t think about that now.”
“It’s something I have to deal with, and I braced myself for this ever since I first got my Russian passport. Not everyone will think of me the same way,” he added, according to the report from NBC Sports.
Last December, the IOC confirmed that Russia would not be allowed to compete as a country in Pyeongchang, as a host of athletes tested positive for banned substances.
It was recently confirmed that Ahn was one of the athletes who would not be able to participate along with a collection of stars from Russia at the Games, which will commence on Feb. 9.
According to Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin, reports that Ahn had been excluded from a pool of eligible athletes were believed to be false.
“We have seen those deplorable reports in the media. We deeply regret if such decisions have indeed been taken. But we hope the situation will be cleared up because we do have contacts with the IOC,” he said.
“We hope those contacts will help clarify the situation around the aforementioned prominent athletes,” he finished.
It is speculated that a final decision in the matter will be taken in a few days.
Should the allegations prove to be true, it would be a shame for the man who is considered to be the best ever in the short track discipline in Olympic history. A return to his native homeland to finish off his illustrious career would have been a vindication to those who wrote him off a second time after he took a full season off following his success at the last Olympics.
But, there could yet be a twist in the plot to come. Should he be able to compete, it would be the perfect final farewell for one of the most decorated stars in the modern Olympic era.
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