The most decorated South Korean-born Olympian is ready for the very real possibility that he gets booed while competing at the PyeongChang Winter Games.
Short track speed skater Viktor Ahn won his first four Olympic medals for South Korea in 2006 as Ahn-Hyun Soo.
His next four came for Russia in 2014, after Ahn’s falling out with South Korea’s short track powers and nationality switch.
Now, the 31-year-old Ahn is preparing for what should be his last Olympics.
He has competed as a Russian in World Cups in South Korea in 2013 and 2016, but PyeongChang will of course be on another level.
“I think the crowd’s reaction may bother me, but I won’t think about that now,” Ahn said while at a Russian training camp in South Korea on Monday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “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.”
It might be logical to believe Ahn would get booed while competing in his birth country for a different nation.
But NBC Olympic analyst Apolo Ohno, a former rival of Ahn’s, has said the South Korean public was more upset with the country’s short track officials than Ahn for his leaving. While Ahn won three golds in Sochi, no South Korean man made the top five of any race for the first time in Olympic history.
“He’ll be an absolute superstar [in PyeongChang],” Ohno said in November 2014. “I think they’ll get over [that he competes for Russia]. He’s an anomaly.”
Ahn, who was .077 away from sweeping all four Sochi Olympic golds, earned just one medal at this past season’s world championships, a bronze, after taking the 2015-16 season off.
“Throughout my career, I’ve competed under a lot of pressure,” Ahn said Monday, according to Yonhap. “At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, I want to have fun skating, rather than worry about results.”
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