VEXED OVER VICTOR
The Olympic victory of a Korean speed skater competing for Russia has triggered outrage in South Korea, with the government announcing a comprehensive inquiry into the national skating body yesterday.
The website of the Korean Skating Union (KSU) crashed on Sunday under the volume of furious messages blaming its officials for the "defection" of Ahn Hyun Soo to the Russian team.
Ahn had become a sporting hero in South Korea after winning three golds at the 2006 Winter Games.
But, beset by injury problems and, after falling out with South Korean skating officials, he fast-tracked Russian citizenship in 2011, took the name Victor Ahn, and competed at Sochi as a Russian athlete.
His gold medal in the 1,000-metre short track last Saturday provoked a furious response in South Korea - but with the anger directed squarely at the country's skating officials rather than at Ahn himself.
Yesterday's newspapers all trumpeted his achievement while heaping scorn on the "incompetent" KSU.
"Vindication for Victor", ran the headline in the Joong Ang Daily.
Ahn's falling out with the KSU rested on claims of factional infighting in the South Korean national team based on fierce university loyalties.
Yesterday's edition of the Sports Seoul newspaper devoted three pages - under headings like "His choice was right" - to lamenting the turn of events that led to Ahn crossing the finish line in Sochi in a Russian team strip.
An editorial in the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said that it was time "to shed light on the irregularities in our sports system" before the 2018 Winter Games, which will be held in the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang.
Last week, South Korea President Park Geun Hye had demanded an inquiry into the reasons behind Ahn's decision to switch national allegiances.
Yesterday, the Sports Ministry said it would take action after the Sochi Games was over.
"We will review the entire system at the Korea Skating Union to see if there had been any corruption or feuds in selecting national team skaters and coaches," said vice-minister Kim Chong.
"Our athletes still have to stay focused on their competition, and so we will not take any steps during the Olympics," Kim said.
The public response in South Korea largely mirrored the media line of applauding Ahn and condemning the KSU.
"We all root for you, Ahn Hyun Soo! I'm so happy that you won gold instead of our corrupt South Korean team!" wrote one contributor to the overloaded comment forum on one of many Internet news portals where the Ahn debate generated enormous traffic.
"Shame on you, Korean Skating Union. You are the one who kicked Ahn out of Korea and you only have yourself to blame for this whole debacle," wrote another. - AFP.