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South Korea Olympic star alleges concussion, sabotage at hands of coach

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Shim Suk-Hee, an Olympic short track speed skating champion, said that her now-banned, ex-coach gave her a concussion that caused her to faint during the Olympics, according to South Korean media.

Shim’s former coach, Cho Jae-Beom, received a life ban from the Korean Skating Union and in September was sentenced to 10 months in jail for assaulting athletes between 2011 and 2018, according to the International Skating Union.

“Before the PyeongChang Olympics, he kicked and punched me so hard that I thought I was going to die,” a tearful Shim testified Monday in Cho’s trial appealing the sentence, according to a Yonhap News Agency translation. “I had a concussion afterward, and I fainted and fell down during the Olympics because of that.”

Cho was first suspended in January, less than a month before the PyeongChang Winter Games, after allegations arose. Shim reportedly said Monday that, among years of abuse, Cho secretly changed her skate blades before World Cup races leading up to the Olympics to improve the chances of another South Korean skater.

“When I was in fourth grade, I suffered broken fingers after getting struck by an ice hockey stick,” Shim said of Cho, whose attorneys called her allegations “preposterous,” according to Yonhap. “Once I got into middle school, he became even more violent. He dragged me into confined spaces to beat me up mercilessly, and other athletes suffered ruptured eardrums and other injuries.

“I hope he will be punished so severely so he won’t be able to do these things again.”

Shim earned relay gold medals at the last two Olympics, plus individual silver and bronze medals in Sochi. She was the 2014 World overall champion and the overall silver and bronze medalist the last two years.

She struggled in individual events in PyeongChang. In her lone final, she was disqualified after crashing with countrywoman Choi Min-Jeong on the last lap. Shim has a best individual finish of fourth in two World Cup stops this season.

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Wu Dajing, world’s fastest short track speed skater, lowers his world record

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Wu Dajing was China’s lone gold medalist in PyeongChang, and the short track speed skater is only getting faster as the Beijing Winter Olympic cycle begins.

Wu lowered his world record in the 500m, the equivalent of track and field’s 100m, at a World Cup in Kearns, Utah, on Sunday. He clocked 39.505 seconds at the 2002 Olympic long-track venue, beating the 39.584 he set in the PyeongChang final.

“The ice here is very fast,” the 24-year-old Wu said, according to the International Skating Union. “A year’s training has gone into this world record.”

Wu merits comparisons to Usain Bolt. Not only for dominating his sport’s sprint, but also for his unusual height (5 feet, 11 inches, tall for a short tracker) and the likelihood that he will be a star at an Olympics in China. With his PyeongChang title, Wu also took 500m gold or silver at all four world championships in the last Olympic cycle.

In 2022, Beijing will become the first city to host both editions of the Olympics, 14 years after it held an iconic Summer Games with Bolt’s breakout.

Wu’s time on Sunday is equal to averaging 28.31 miles per hour, nearly five mph faster than Bolt’s average for his 100m world record of 9.58 seconds from 2009.

NBC Olympics analyst Apolo Ohno, an eight-time Olympic short track medalist, raved over Wu in PyeongChang, noting not only his unchallenged speed but also meticulous strategy. Wu became the first man to lead an Olympic 500m final from start to finish since Ohno at Torino 2006.

“It was a symphony of short track 500m specialty,” Ohno said of Wu’s 500m gold in February.

Only American J.R. Celski had broken 40 seconds in the 500m before Wu did it twice in one night in PyeongChang. In two World Cup stops this season, Wu broke 40 seconds in eight of 12 rounds of 500m events.

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J.R. Celski retires after three Olympics, three medals in short track

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J.R. Celski, the top U.S. short track speed skater of the last decade, retired after three Olympics, where he combined for one silver and two bronze medals.

“I’ve contemplated for a long time,” said Celski, a 28-year-old from Federal Way, Wash., who now attends the University of Utah. “It’s a good time to move on and start a new chapter in my life. That’s where I’m at right now.

“I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it has, like I was going to be immune to the emotions that come along with retirement or something,” Celski said in a 1,500-word open letter. “I felt like I could just sneak out under the radar and carry on with the next chapter in my life. I don’t know how else to say it other than I needed to finally face the reality of things.”

Celski’s enduring story has to be his comeback from suffering a seven-inch-long, two-inch-deep gash in his left quad when he crashed at the September 2009 Olympic Trials.

His skate blade punctured his leg one inch from the femoral artery. Celski could see bone through the gash as he was lifted on a stretcher. He said he thought he might die. Sixty stitches closed the wound.

Less than five months later, Celski earned 1500m and relay bronze medals at his first Olympics in Vancouver.

“The most celebrated and inspirational stories told in this world are born out of struggle,” he wrote. “They are stories of man and woman’s ability to overcome some form of hardship, and go on to do something great. It shakes us to our core every time, without failure. It is the very thing that defines us as humans.”

After executive producing a documentary featuring Macklemore, Celski took another Olympic run for Sochi. He earned a relay silver in 2014 and finished fourth in the 1500m, missing a medal by six tenths of a second.

Celski ended his career last winter with a best finish in three PyeongChang events of fifth in the relay and an appearance at the world championships. He knew before the season that it would be his last — after enduring hip surgery and knee and back injuries in that Olympic cycle — but kept the decision private.

“The thing I’m going to miss most about short track is the dynamics of the sport,” said Celski, who picked up short track around age 12, after first skating inline at 3. “There’s so much you need to pay attention to in training and prepare yourself for. You can’t just be fast. You can’t just be strong. You can’t just be agile. You have to be multiple dimensions in the sport.”

Celski also earned eight world championships medals, the last coming in 2014 when he ranked second overall. He also held world records in the 500m (first man to break 40 seconds) and the 5000m relay.

Celski took one year off from the sport after both the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, but this break will be permanent. He’s studying business at Utah and will stay involved in the sport. His year-old, co-founded company, Nalza, produces speed skating equipment.

“I went into taking those years off after the Olympics previously kind of with the thought that I’d come back. This time it’s different. I guess it’s the only way I can describe it,” he said. “I don’t think as the Olympics get close it’s going to pull me back anymore. I feel like I’ve been through what I needed to go through. I’m really thankful to have competed as long as I have, skated alongside the teammates I had.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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