According to Cho, when Chun first approached him about tampering with a Canadian’s skates, he was with his teammate Jeff Simon, and both athletes said they wouldn’t do it. Chun then spoke with Cho privately, recounted Cho, who said he again refused. But on the coach’s third instruction, Cho said, he relented.
“He came to me not only as my coach [but also as] an elder and fellow Korean,” Cho said. “In Asian culture, when an elder asks you to do something, it’s very difficult to deny their request, no matter how ridiculous it might sound at the time. I had a lot of pressure from that.”
Asked what Chun said, Cho replied, “If I had to translate into English, he told me to mess up somebody’s skates.”
Cho said he then pulled a roughly foot-long piece of metal used to bend blades from a coach’s bag and set out to damage the first skate he came across in a locker room shared by about 30 Canadian and American skaters.
“It was very difficult to be alone,” Cho said. “There was a window of time where I was able to do it. I was scared and panicking. I picked up the first skate I saw, and it happened to be Olivier Jean’s.”
Jean fell in the race that followed and was forced to withdraw.
“I felt extremely guilty,” Cho said. “I felt terrible for what I had done.”
U.S. Speedskating officials placed Chun on administrative leave Sept. 16. The skaters seeking his dismissal have refused to train with his temporary replacement, Chun’s top assistant, and now compete for a different team.
An arbitration hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1.
Asked how he would characterize Chun, with whom he has trained since he was 15, Cho said, “There is no such thing as perfect coach. It was my job to make sure that I took the best out of every coach and implemented that into my own training.”
Asked whether he had learned from the experience, Cho said: “I certainly learned a lot. I hope that younger generations of athletes are able to take away from this, as well, and learn from my example. Do what you believe it right.”