Viktor vindicated as Russian switch pays off

Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:45pm EST
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By Peter Rutherford

SEOUL (Reuters) - Whether 'V' stands for 'victory', 'vindication' or 'vengeance', Viktor Ahn wrote his new name in the record books by winning three more short track golds at the Sochi Olympics, repaying the faith his adopted country Russia had showed in him.

Born 'Ahn Hyun-soo' in Seoul, the skater won his first three Olympic golds racing for South Korea at the Turin Winter Games in 2006 and had racked up 18 world championship titles before his 22nd birthday.

But instead of plundering more short track gold in Vancouver, Ahn was sidelined from the team due to a knee injury and after falling out with Korea's skating union (KSU).

Believing his career was permanently stalled due to his differences with the KSU, Ahn took the drastic step of giving up his South Korean passport and switching allegiance to Russia in 2011.

The United States had also expressed an interest in giving Ahn a new home but the sporting and financial package offered by Russia proved impossible to resist.

Ahn's departure was met with little more than mild surprise in South Korea, where short track success has been taken for granted over the years, the country's skaters picking up 21 of the 48 Olympic golds since it became a medal sport in 1992.

At the Sochi Games in February, however, Ahn gave his old country a sharp reminder of the unique talent it had let slip through its fingers.

With a combination of explosive power, unshakable confidence and flawless technique, Ahn won gold in the 500m, 1,000m and 5,000m relay to claim his fourth, fifth and sixth Olympic titles, becoming the most successful short track skater in history.   Continued...

Viktor Ahn (L) of Russia and Da Woon Sin of South Korea compete in the men's 1500m final race during the ISU Short Track World Cup speed skating competition in Shanghai December 8, 2012. Ahn won the gold medal. REUTERS/Carlos Barria