Simon Cho, the 2010 Olympic bronze-medalist accused of tampering with a Canadian rival’s skates at the 2011 world championships, failed to secure a spot on the 2012-2013 World Cup short track team based on his performance in the U.S. Single Distance Short Track Speedskating Championships that concluded Sunday at the Utah Olympic Oval outside Salt Lake City.
But the ultimate makeup of the team remains in flux, as does the question of who will coach the U.S. national team heading into the 2014 Olympics, because of a coaching-abuse scandal that has riven the sport.
Last month 14 current and five former athletes filed a grievance against Coach Jae Su Chun, alleging physical and psychological abuse. That was followed by a complaint to the U.S. Olympic Committee detailing citing 22 instances of abuse and demanding Chun’s removal.
U.S. Speedskating retained an independent law firm, White & Case, to investigate the claims and placed Chun on administrative leave Sept. 16.
The skaters demanding Chun’s removal account for roughly half the pool of elite skaters from which the 2014 Olympic squad likely will be drawn, including two-time bronze medalist J.R. Celski, among the first to qualify for the 2012-2013 World Cup team. The other faction of skaters supports Chun.
With this past weekend’s competition looming, the skaters pursued a third tack, requesting binding arbitration by the American Arbitration Association, citing the need to know whether Chun would be reinstated before accepting, or refusing, a spot on the World Cup team. A related document states that Cho reportedly told a fellow athlete that he had tampered with a Canadian’s skates at the 2011 World Championships on Chun’s orders and profoundly regretted it.
Cho, 20, who was born in South Korea and reared in Laurel, had originally scheduled a news conference to discuss the allegations Sunday but canceled after his attorney advised waiting until the arbitrator’s ruling. John Wunderli said by telephone that his client had “spoken honestly and forthrightly” to the investigators examining the claims.
Cho, who honed his expertise under Chun’s former assistant, Jimmy Jang, at Potomac Speedskating Club, is not among those advocating Chun’s removal.
It’s possible that U.S. Speedskating officials will take action once White & Case submits its report, expected next week.
The 10 athletes selected Sunday have until Oct. 7 to accept or reject their place on the national team. Two more athletes, a man and a woman, will be added to the World Cup team on Oct. 8, the date of the arbitration hearing.