Short track: Ahn's defection pays golden dividend to Russia

Sat Feb 15, 2014 11:37am EST
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By Alissa de Carbonnel

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - As if they were not suffering enough with their Sochi short-track troubles, South Korea had to endure their former skater Ahn Hyun-soo striking gold with a new name under a new flag on Saturday as newly-Russian Viktor Ahn triumphed in the 1,000 meters.

Two years after switching allegiances, the 28-year-old has transformed Russia from a short-track also-run nation into once celebrating their first three Olympic medals after training mate Vladimir Grigorev took silver on Saturday to add to Ahn's bronze in the 1500m.

The victory was especially sweet for Ahn, who saw it as a vindication of his defection after being passed over by South Korea for a spot at the 2010 Vancouver Games following a knee injury in 2008 that nearly ended his career.

"I wanted to train in the best possible environment and I proved my decision was not wrong," said Ahn, who is regarded as one of the greatest short track speed skaters of all time.

Ahn collapsed to his knees, kissing the ice and shedding tears of joy, after reclaiming the title he won for South Korea in Turin eight years ago to become the first man to win four Olympic gold medals in short track.

"I spent the last eight years working toward this gold medal and so many things happened along the way so that's why I cried," Ahn, his hair dyed orange red, told reporters.

"At first my mind was going blank. It was unbelievable."

Ahn hugged his former countrymen before celebrating with Grigorev. "We compete against each other for the medal but not against each other personally," he said.   Continued...

South Korean-born short-track skater Ahn Hyun-Soo listens during an interview with Reuters in Moscow February 16, 2013. REUTERS/Gennady Fyodorov