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South Korean speed skating champ suspended, doubtful for Olympics

South Korean speed skating star Shim Suk-hee has been suspended for two months over expletive-laden texts about her teammates, leaving her participation at the Beijing Winter Games hanging by a thread.

Shim, 24, is one of South Korea’s most successful skaters with four Olympics short-track medals, including relay golds at the 2014 and 2018 Games.

Her two-month suspension, announced Tuesday, was the latest in a series of scandals to emerge after the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea.

A disciplinary committee of the Korea Skating Union concluded Shim caused “social trouble” and “tarnished the dignity” of other athletes after investigating texts she sent to one of her coach during the Games.

The only way Shim can now compete at the 2022 Games, which begin on February 4 in Beijing, is to get a court injunction against the suspension or lodge a successful appeal with the South Korean Olympic committee.

Her texts were first reported by local media in October, sparking an outcry.

In the denigrating messages, Shim had also suggested tripping her teammate Choi Min-jeong if they competed in the same race at Pyeongchang.

The two ended up racing in the women’s 1,000-metre final and got tangled in the final stretch, causing them to fall and crash into the wall. Shim was disqualified and Choi placed fourth.

Shim had apologised for her “immature behaviour” when the texts were revealed.

A probe was launched at the behest of Choi to find out whether Shim intentionally tripped her, but officials concluded that was not the case, citing a lack of evidence.

South Korean sport has seen a number of cases of bullying, harassment, abuse and ill discipline in recent years — especially in short track speed skating.

One of Shim’s coaches — not involved in the texting case — was jailed this year for more than a decade for sexually assaulting her over several years.

And in 2019, a male skater was suspended for a month after secretly getting into the female dorm at the national training centre.

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