We’re not quite sure how far down the rabbit hole this speedskating story is about to go, but it’s definitely getting uglier every day. More allegations regarding U.S. short track coach Jae Su Chun surfaced Thursday in an arbitration filed by 14 current members of the national team who are seeking Chun’s dismissal for “unchecked abuse.”
According to the filing, Chun also allegedly asked Simon Cho, a Vancouver bronze medalist, to sabotage the skates of a Canadian rival Oliver Jean before the 5000m relay final at last year’s world short track team championships in Poland. Cho then told a teammate in a written letter that, “it is my darkest secret and I regret it.”
The filing suggests that Cho acknowledged the incident again in July 2012, telling a teammate that, “I know I have done [expletive] up things. I wish I could take them back. But I can’t. … And I’m preparing myself for the consequences to come.”
Neither Cho or Chun, who is also accused of physical and verbal abuse against a number of his skaters, including throwing one skater into a wall, have commented or publicly acknowledged the accusations regarding tampering with another team’s equipment.
The 14 current members are seeking arbitration to expedite Chun’s dismissal before the 2012-13 World Cup team is selected following team trials on Sept. 30, but seven members of the U.S. team have come out in support of Chun and have called the accusations “baseless” and “false.”
Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno
Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.
The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.
Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed— a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck.
The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.
Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.
In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.
Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.
Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.
Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.
From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.
Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.
Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.
A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.
Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denneystepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.
Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.
Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.
The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.
The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.