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Lee Sang-Hwa, fastest female speed skater in history, retires

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Lee Sang-Hwa, a two-time Olympic 500m champion and the fastest woman ever in that sprint, has retired, according to South Korean media.

Lee, 30, had not competed on the World Cup since taking silver at the PyeongChang Olympics, where she was one of the host nation’s most high-profile athletes.

In fact, a pre-Games survey of 1,000 people by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism ranked Lee as the most anticipated South Korean athlete of the Olympics.

The self-described “Lego maniac” debuted at the Olympics in 2006 at age 16, then took 500m gold in 2010 and 2014. She also lowered the world record four times in 2013, bringing it to 36.36 seconds.

A right knee injury and the rise of Japan’s Nao Kodaira made Lee an underdog in PyeongChang. Indeed, Kodaira won in an Olympic and sea-level record 36.94 seconds, holding off Lee by .39.

“Actually, I felt pressure a bit to defend my title again,” Lee said after the race, according to Yonhap News Agency. “In the past, I was worried about falling from the top. But this time, she is the top dog, not me.

“Due to the knee injury, I had lost my sense of speed. It took a year and half to regain it. Finally, it’s over.”

A memorable moment occurred after when Kodaira put her arm around a tearful Lee, both skaters carrying the flags of their historically rival nations together in a show of unity.

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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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South Korea’s ‘Garlic Girls’ curlers say coaches verbally abused them, excluded skip

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South Korea’s Olympic silver medal curling team — affectionately known as the “Garlic Girls” — want their coaches replaced, claiming they were verbally abusive, withheld prize money and excluded the team’s skip after the Winter Games, according to South Korean media.

“We would like to continue our training [for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics] without our current coaches and their influence,” the players wrote in their letter to the president of South Korea’s Olympic Committee, according to the Korea Herald. “Our coach Kim was hardly present while we were training for the Olympics. Whenever we made complaints about Kim to Kim Kyung-Doo, who is her father and the vice president of Korea Curling Foundation, he verbally abused us.”

One coach denied some claims, which South Korea’s Olympic Committee is investigating.

Skip Kim Eun-Jung, Kim Kyeong-Ae, Kim Seon-Yeong, Kim Yeong-Mi and Kim Cho-Hi were a revelation in PyeongChang, reaching the final after finishing seventh at the 2017 World Championship. South Korea had only one previous Olympic women’s curling appearance, placing eighth in Sochi.

All team members hailed from Uiseong, a farming area known for its garlic.

In the reported letter, the silver medalists wrote that their head coach, Kim Min-Jung, plus her husband and father, both curling officials, mistreated them. They said they were banned from using social media after the Olympics. And that coaches tried to “rule Kim Eun-Jung off the team” after she got married in July, according to the Korea Times.

Jang Ban-Seok, the head coach’s husband and the Olympic mixed curling team’s head coach, denied some claims.

He said prize money covered team expenses, and the curlers signed a financial agreement. He also said that since the skip was planning to get pregnant, they needed to find a replacement skip this summer.

“We’ve never trained in a way that would lead to a curler being kicked off the team,” Jang wrote, according to the Korea Times.

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