Behind closed doors, speed skater Shim Suk-hee dealt with physical and sexual abuse while standing on the world stage at the Olympics.
It has been less than two weeks since New Year’s Day, and like most, speed skater Shim Suk-hee (21) was busy planning for the year ahead. At the same time Shim, who is dubbed the “Queen of the Korean Short Track,” is battling a dark and horrible past.
Just a year ago when the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were in full swing, Shim’s performance during the competition filled newspapers. It was her second time on the national team; her first was the Sochi Games held in Russia four years prior when she was just 17. The public knew Shim as a player who practiced hard and who did not shy away from interviews. Perhaps that is why no one could have imagined that she was dealing with behind closed doors.
Her name is once again circulating the news, but not for sports but for revealing the repeated assault, both physical and sexual, that she suffered at the hand of former national short track speed skating coach Cho Jae-beom.
Cho physically abusing athletes isn’t necessarily new. He was indicted and sentenced to 10 months in prison for assaulting four players, including Shin, starting in 2011 until January of this year. While training for the Olympics last year, Shim said that Cho would hit and punch her under the guise of making her stronger and a better athlete. In November, Shim testified against her former coach face-to-face in court, hoping to prevent the accused from repeating the same crime.
However, just days ago news about Cho sexually abusing Shim, and possibly others has sparked new outrage and disgust. The information came out once it was discovered that the skater had filed an additional claim against the former coach for sexual assault and other charges. According to Shim, Cho sexually assaulted her for four years. Moreover, Shim claims that Cho first touched her in 2014 when she was just 17 and a junior in high school.
Lawyer Im Sang-hyuk of Sejong Law Firm, Shim’s legal representative, said that the skater has nightmares every night due to the traumatic events she suffered under Cho. For years she kept silent about the abuse, not even telling her father. Her representative saif that she though it would be difficult for her father to know that this had been happening to her. Instead, she dicided to endure the abuse alone.
Even so, there were some hints that others may have picked up. “It was strange because she would go to the athletes’ village in good condition and would participated in competitions, but sometimes the results weren’t good,” said an acquintance who knows Shim. “I have been watching Shim for a long time, but I never dreamed that this was happening. I feel terrible.”
Cho has denied the allegations. Police and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism are investigating.
Image sources – Korea Daily, Ilgan Sports
Translated by O.C