Viktor Ahn

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Viktor Ahn
Viktor Ahn Sochi 2014.jpg
Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Winter Olympics
Personal information
Birth name Ahn Hyun-soo
Born (1985-11-23) November 23, 1985 (age 28)
Seoul, South Korea
Height 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight 63 kg (139 lb; 9.9 st)
Sport
Country  Russia
Sport Short Track Speed Skating
Achievements and titles
World finals World Championship
2014 Overall
2007 Overall
2006 Overall
2005 Overall
2004 Overall
2003 Overall
World Cup
2006 Overall
2004 Overall
Personal best(s) 500 m: 40.515 (2014)
1000 m: 1:23.487(2013)
1500 m: 2:10.639 (2003, Former WR)
3000 m: 4:32.646 (2003, Former WR)
Korean name
Hangul 안현수
Hanja 安賢洙
Revised Romanization An Hyeonsu
McCune–Reischauer An Hyŏnsu

Viktor Ahn (Russian: Виктор Ан; born November 23, 1985), also known as Ahn Hyun-soo (Korean: 안현수) and Victor An, is a Russian short track speed skating athlete of South Korean descent. After competing for South Korea since childhood, in 2011 he became a Russian citizen and now races for the Russian team. One of the most accomplished short track speed skaters of all time, Ahn won three gold medals and a bronze medal in 2006 Winter Olympics held in Turin, Italy, becoming the most successful athlete there. He has also won three gold medals and one bronze medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. He is also a six-time Overall World Champion for 2003–2007 and 2014.[2]

After winning gold in Sochi, Ahn explained his reasons for joining the Russian team saying, "I wanted to train in the best possible environment and I proved my decision was not wrong." As expected, a gold-winning athlete leaving the national team caused public uproar in South Korea. However, it was aimed not at Ahn, but at the country's skating union. Most South Korean fans in a poll said they understood Ahn's decision.[3] Ahn received the The Order For Merit to the Fatherland Award 4th class with Russian President Vladimir Putin handing the state awards.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Ahn first began skating in elementary school. The first time he watched the sport on television was during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer where one of his heroes, Chae Ji-Hoon, took gold in the 500 m and silver in the 1000 m for South Korea. Incidentally, these were the Games where Russia achieved a national record of 11 Olympic golds, a feat that he himself would help to repeat twenty years later. His coach, Kim Ki-Hoon, was a three-time Olympic gold medalist who scouted Ahn and continues to train him. He trains ten hours every day from techniques, speed, and endurance to video analysis.

Career[edit]

2002 Olympics[edit]

He participated in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, making the finals of the 1000 meter short course event but returned home without a medal after a controversial fall involving Apolo Ohno, Li Jiajun and Mathieu Turcotte allowed Australian Steve Bradbury to sweep the gold medal.

After the Olympics[edit]

Ahn won the world junior short track championship in 2002, and finished second to Kim Dong-Sung at his first senior-level world championship competition the same year. He is the first male skater to achieve such feat. Ahn Hyun Soo finished first in the overall World Cup rankings during 2003–2004 and 2005–2006 seasons. He is also the current world record holder for 1500 m event.

2006 Olympics[edit]

In the 2006 Winter Olympics, Ahn won gold medals in the 1500 m and 1000 m events. He set a new Olympic record time of 1:26.739 in the 1000 m, finishing ahead of teammate Lee Ho-Suk and rival Ohno. Ahn also won gold in Men's 5000 m relay along with teammates Lee Ho-Suk (이호석), Seo Ho-Jin, and Song Suk-Woo. He became the second Korean athlete ever to win three gold medals in one Olympics. (Jin Sun-Yu (진선유) accomplished this earlier on the same day.) He also won a bronze medal in the 500 m event. Rarely taking the lead position throughout the entire race, Ahn's strategy is to follow the leaders, then sprint using an outside passing lane (or occasionally an inside passing lane if the opportunity arises) with only two or three laps to go. In the 5000 m relay at the 2006 Winter Olympics, Ahn made a brilliant pass around defending Olympic champion Canada on the final lap, helping Korea earn the victory. Sports commentators often refer to his "patented outside pass" due to its consistency and tremendous effectiveness.

Ahn Hyun Soo won a total of 4 medals in the 2006 Games, an unprecedented result by any athlete in his sport. He is the first Korean man to win at least 3 medals in a single Winter Olympics.[5]

After the Olympics[edit]

Despite being disqualified in the finals of the 500 m and 3000 m events at the 2006 World Championships in Minneapolis, Ahn was able to claim the championship with victories in both the 1000 m and 1500 m events and became the overall world champion with 68 points followed by countryman Lee Ho-Suk with 60 points.

Conflict[edit]

After the 2006 World Championships, Ahn flew back to South Korea. At the Incheon International Airport, Ahn's father, Ahn Ki-Won, had a loud quarrel with the vice president of the Korean Skating Union (KSU), claiming that the coach did not associate with Ahn and conspired with other skaters to prevent Ahn from winning the title of the overall champion.

The South Korean short track team was split into two groups, in one of which Ahn was being coached by the women's coach due to conflicts with the men's coach. The tensions had risen so high that the skaters refused to dine in the same room, sit next to each other on the plane, or even share the same floor with each other. Ahn and Lee Ho-Suk used to attend the same high school together, and even shared a room last year in skating camps, but since then have rarely spoken to each other.

Ahn mentioned on his personal website that the pressure was too much for him and he contemplated quitting the sport. Due to the issue, KSU stated that starting next season, the team would be united under one head coach to prevent deleterious rivalries.[6]

After the conflict[edit]

At the World Championships held in Milan, Italy from March 9 to March 11, 2007, Ahn won his fifth world championship, finishing first in the 1000 m and in the 5000 m relay with teammates, Sung Si-Bak, Song Kyung-Taek, and Kim Hyun-Kon. He also won silver in the 3000 m behind countryman, Song Kyung-Taek, and won two bronze medals in the 500 m and the 1500 m. He is the first man to win five world championships.[2]

Ahn is the only male short track skater to have won at least three consecutive world championships (having won five in a row); Canadian short track legend Marc Gagnon has won four times, but his titles did not come back to back.

Early 2008 season injury[edit]

On January 16, 2008, the Korean Speedskating Union (KSU) announced that Ahn had injured his knee after colliding with a fence during national team training at the Korea Training Center in Taeneung. After being sent to the hospital, the injury was diagnosed as a fractured knee.

Due to the injury, KSU announced that Ahn would not be competing in the ISU Samsung World Cup Series 5 and 6 in Quebec City and Salt Lake City, respectively. It was also reported that he would not be competing in the 2008 World Championships in Gangeung or the 2008 World Team Championships in Harbin, China. As a result of the unexpected injury, it was clear that Ahn would be unable to defend his sixth World title, leaving his countrymen Lee Ho-suk, Song Kyung-taek and Lee Seung-hoon to make up the ground. After undergoing three surgeries, his rehabilitation period was predicted to be around 2–3 months.[7]

After eight months off the ice, a Korean news article reported on September 5, 2008 that Ahn was back training, undergoing approximately two hours of physical reinforcement and skating along with around five hours of rehabilitation accompanied by muscular power training. The article also reported that Ahn was eyeing the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.[8]

Because of his injury, Ahn did not compete in the 2009 World Championships in Vienna, Austria which took place March 6–8.

2010 Winter Olympics[edit]

During the South Korean National Team Trials, which ultimately determine the Fall World Cup and Olympic Teams, Ahn was unable to qualify, finishing 7th in overall points (because Ahn didn't compete in the last two World Cup seasons, he needed to finish in the top three in overall points to qualify). Due to his inability to qualify, he did not compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Despite this, Ahn competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as a Russian citizen.

Moving to Russia[edit]

Ahn was the leader in the 3000 meters for the 2011–2012 season. He was also in the first place 5000 meter relay team.[9]

2014 Winter Olympics[edit]

Ahn at the Men's 500 metres short track podium

At the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, Ahn won the bronze medal in the 1500 m short track speedskating event. He won the first short track speedskating medal that Russia has earned while competing as Russia.[10] Ahn then won the first Russian gold medal in short track, winning the 1000 m short track speedskating event, leading the first Russian 1-2 finish in short track, with Vladimir Grigorev winning silver.[11] On the 21st of February Ahn won his 7th overall and 5th Winter Olympic gold medal when he finished first in the 500 m men's final.[12] With that gold medal, he became the first short track skater to win all four Olympic golds, the 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, 5000 m-relay. He also became the short track speedskater with the most Olympic gold medals, with 5,[13] which increased to 6 with a 5000 m-relay win later the same day. With that gold, he became the short tracker with the most Olympic medals, at 8, tied with Apolo Anton Ohno.[14]

After the Olympics[edit]

After finishing his career as a skater, Ahn will coach short track for Russia.[10][15]

Russian citizenship[edit]

Ahn has been training in Russia and has received Russian citizenship to compete for Russia in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He won a bronze medal in the 1500 meters and a gold medal in the 1000 meters and the 500 meters. Ahn's father stated that the decision was due to lack of support from the South Korean skating association.[16] Prior to moving to Russia, Ahn did not know Russian, and Ahn had no familial ties to Russia. He had considered competing for the United States, but found that the process for gaining Russian citizenship was much easier. He chose "Viktor" as his Russian name as it derived from Victory[17] and to pay tribute to Viktor Tsoi, a Soviet rock star of Korean descent.[18]

In South Korea, a furore has erupted over the loss of Ahn to Team Russia, after his participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Several newspapers reported the scorn of the Korean public and newspaper editors on the actions of the skating federation. The minister of sport and president of South Korea have both promised action in rooting out corruption and feuding at the organization that may have led to his "defection," in a bid to clean it up in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The Korean public is generally supportive of Ahn.[19][20][21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ahn Hyun-Soo Achievements". ISU Short Track Results Official Site. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  2. ^ a b "Ahn defends titles five times in a row". Yonhap News. 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2007-03-12. [dead link]
  3. ^ Narae Kim (16 February 2014). "Ahn's gold hard for South Koreans to swallow". Reuters. 
  4. ^ "Russia's Olympic athletes receive state awards". Itar-Tass. 24 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Ahn Hyun Soo Profile". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  6. ^ Gwang-lip, Moon (2006-04-06). "Korean Skaters Come Apart". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  7. ^ "Skating Champ Injures Knee While Training". The Korea Times. 2008-01-17. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  8. ^ "Ahn is back training". Chosun.com (in Korean). 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  9. ^ http://isu.sportcentric.net/db//files/serve.php?id=3672
  10. ^ a b Mark Zeigler (10 February 2014). "Viktor Ahn: For Russia, with love". U-T San Diego. 
  11. ^ Beth Harris (15 February 2014). "Viktor Ahn wins 1st Olympic gold and 2nd short track medal for his adopted Russia". Associated Press (Yahoo Sports). 
  12. ^ Gregory Sysoev (21 February 2014). "Short Track: Russia's Viktor Ahn Storms to Second Gold in Sochi". RIA Novosti. 
  13. ^ AP (21 February 2014). "Russia's Ahn wins only short track gold that eluded him: 500m". Fox Sports. 
  14. ^ Beth Harris (21 February 2014). "Viktor Ahn of Russia wins 2 short track golds". AP (Yahoo! Sports). 
  15. ^ Alexander Vilf (2014-02-11). "Viktor Ahn to Coach Russian Short-Track Speedskaters". R-Sport (RIA Novosti). 
  16. ^ "Ahn likely to skate for Russia in Sochi Olympics". The Korea Times. 2011-08-17. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  17. ^ Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH) (18 April 2013). "Korean ice skating champion on why he became Russian". Youtube. 
  18. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/sports/olympics/ahn-rejected-us-to-skate-for-russia.html?_r=0
  19. ^ Agence France-Presse (17 February 2014). "Fury over Viktor Ahn's 'Russian' gold aimed at Korean Skating Union". South China Morning Post. 
  20. ^ Tony Manfred (16 February 2014). "Why A Korean Speed Skating Star Changed His Name And Started Racing For Russia". Business Insider. 
  21. ^ Sam Borden (9 February 2014). "Rejecting the U.S. to Skate for Russia". New York Times.