Suspension marks end to ordeal for Chun, USSU.S. overall champ Smith speaks out in support of barred coach
The International Skating Union's decision regarding disciplinary action against former U.S. short track coach Jae Su Chun could have shattered the celebration of newly crowned U.S. champions.
But those who support the coach said they're working to put the controversies of the last 12 months behind them, even if, to some degree, they still feel dissatisfied with the way Chun was treated by U.S. Speedskating.
"I'm definitely glad that it's over, more for him," said U.S. ladies overall champion Jessica Smith, who still trains with Chun at the newly formed Salt Lake International. "He's just glad the decision got made, and he can move forward -- we can all move forward."
The ISU found Chun had violated ethics policies and issued a two-year ban (from coaching internationally) that runs until Aug. 25, 2015.
The decision shocked no one, as Chun admitted he knew a former Olympic skater, Simon Cho, had bent the blade of a Canadian athlete's skates during the 2011 World Championships. Cho's admission came at the end of last year's World Cup selection competitions and while Chun was on administrative leave as outside investigators tried to determine whether allegations of abuse against him were legitimate.
U.S. speedskating punished Chun, who resigned after acknowledging that he knew what Cho had done, with a two-year ban that ends March 2014. Chun vehemently denies Cho's allegations that the skater only tampered with his competitor's equipment because Chun badgered him to do so.
In a statement released by his attorney, friend and translator, Hyonmyong Cho, Chun maintains his innocence and refutes claims that he asked Cho to cheat in any way.
"Jae Su Chun has been exhausted by this ordeal and would like to focus on fulfilling his duty to his remaining skaters," the statement read. "These skaters have been the true victims, and he would like to prepare them for their dream of the podium in Sochi."
Hyonmyong Cho said Chun cannot file a grievance with U.S. Speedskating to try and clear his name because he is no longer a member of the organization. U.S. Speedskating has no plans to further penalize Chun, who was in the stands watching his athletes compete last week.
Smith, one of his most ardent defenders and the competition's top woman, said she's glad the decision came down, even if it was ill-timed.
"He's been strong through all of it," she said. "He didn't want to let us down. He stuck it out for us, the athletes, and he wanted our best interests, and he knew we wanted him to stay."
She said Chun's dedication to his students' goals inspires her during the toughest times.
"For him to show up every day and give us everything he has, that's all we can ask for," she said. "In the situation that he's in, I'm thankful that he's stuck around. You don't see that every single day, that a coach is willing to stick it out, even though people are beating him down."
Stephen Gough, the coach of the U.S. short track team, said everyone involved has tried very hard to be professional and courteous as the team embarks on some critical international competitions.
"[Everyone's] not going to be best friends," he said during a break in the 1,000-meter races. "Generally, we're trying to get a more positive and respectful atmosphere.
"I'm very happy with the progress that we've made because we will have to come together as a World Cup team. We have big ambitions for the relay races, and we need [everyone] to be on the same page when it comes to that race."