Short track skater Shim Suk-hee cleared of match fixing

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Short track skater Shim Suk-hee cleared of match fixing

Shim Suk-hee, center, and Choi Min-jeong collide during the women's 1000-meter final at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, Gangwon on Feb. 22, 2018. [JOONGANG ILBO]

Shim Suk-hee, center, and Choi Min-jeong collide during the women's 1000-meter final at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, Gangwon on Feb. 22, 2018. [JOONGANG ILBO]

 
An investigation into text messages sent by Olympic gold medalist short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee that included what some believe is a reference to race fixing ended Wednesday, when the Korea Skating Union (KSU) announced that there is not sufficient evidence of intentional race fixing.
 
"We checked the video of Shim pushing Choi [Min-jeong] with her hand at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics," said Yang Bu-nam, vice president of the KSU and the official in charge of the investigation, on Wednesday.  
 
"The video is not sufficient evidence of intentional race fixing as it is possible that her actions were intended to protect herself."
 
The video dates back to the collision between Shim and Choi during the women's 1000-meter final at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, when the two fell while turning the final corner. After a video review, Shim was disqualified and Choi missed out on a medal, taking fourth place.
 
"Shim has denied that the collision was intentional," said Yang, while also clearing her of allegations that she had secretly recorded her teammates in the locker room or attempted to fix races at previous competitions.
 
Yang Bu-nam, vice president of the Korea Skating Union (KSU), talks at the KSU headquarters in Songpa, Southern Seoul on Wednesday. [NEWS1]

Yang Bu-nam, vice president of the Korea Skating Union (KSU), talks at the KSU headquarters in Songpa, Southern Seoul on Wednesday. [NEWS1]

 
What was seen as an unfortunate collision between teammates at the time started to be retroactively investigated in October under the suspicion that Shim could have intentionally skated into Choi after an online news outlet reported on text messages that Shim had exchanged with a coach during the PyeongChang Olympics.
 
The text messages were released as part of the written opinion of lawyers for former national team coach Cho Jae-beom, who is currently in prison for sexually and physically assaulting Shim. Shim's text message contained insults toward teammates Choi and Kim, including a mention of making Choi a "female Steven Bradbury."
 
The last remark was a reference to Australian short track Olympian Steven Bradbury, who won gold after all of his opponents crashed in a pileup and fell at the last minute during the men's 1000 meters at the 2002 Winter Games.
 
Shim is one of Korea's top women's short track speed skaters, alongside Choi, Kim Ji-yoo, Lee Yu-bin and Kim A-lang. Shim and Choi are two of the top athletes in the world. Shim has two Olympic gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze, while Choi has two golds.
 
Shim Suk-hee, left, leads the group during the 1000-meter race at the national team selection competition held at Taereung International Rink in northern Seoul on May 6. [NEWS1]

Shim Suk-hee, left, leads the group during the 1000-meter race at the national team selection competition held at Taereung International Rink in northern Seoul on May 6. [NEWS1]

 
Though Shim has been cleared of the race fixing allegations, a disciplinary committee is still to rule on whether she will face any punishment for insulting her teammates. 
 
"I sincerely apologize for disappointing and hurting others with my immature attitude and choice of words," Shim said in an official statement. "I would like to express my deep apologies to Kim, Choi and the coaches."
 
Despite topping the national team trials in May, Shim was excluded from the World Cup series roster. Whether she will compete at the upcoming Beijing Olympics is yet to be decided.

BY YUN SO-HYANG [yun.sohyang@joongang.co.kr]
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