Former Korean skater to coach in Russia

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Former Korean skater to coach in Russia

A former Korean short-track speed skater who has been coaching the U.S. national team said yesterday he will take up coaching in Russia for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

“I signed a contract with Russia’s sports authorities on April 1 in Moscow to coach the national short-track speed skating team,” Jang Gwon-ok, 43, told Yonhap. “I’ll join the team early next month.”

Jang, who dominated South Korea’s short-track speed skating in the 1980s, emigrated to the United States in 2001. He initially coached club teams but when his players began to produce, the American national team officials took notice.

Jang has coached the U.S. national team since 2004. He is credited with transforming the American national team into a world-class team.

He was named assistant coach for the 2006 Olympic team and received the coach of the year award the same year.

Jang said he had received offers from five countries.

“I chose Russia as it offered me the best training environment,” he said.

Jang will serve as the head coach and the executive director of the Russian short track association.

“Russia has had few competitive skaters and has not achieved much on the world stage. It was seeking a South Korean leader to improve the team ahead of the Sochi Games.”

South Korea, a short-track powerhouse with 19 Olympic gold medals, has produced a number of other coaching talents, including Chun Jae-su, head coach of the U.S. team for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

There had been rumors that the Russian national team was heavily recruiting 2006 Turin Games three-time gold medalist Ahn Hyun-soo. But Jang flatly denied the rumors.

“I don’t know what types of talks took place between the Russian national team and Ahn before I was hired but I have not recruited Ahn,” stated Jang.

“I personally hope Ahn succeeds in Korea. I have no intention of using a Korean superstar to improve the Russian squad. That’s not the direction Russian officials want to take either.”

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