The Russian Skating Union on Tuesday fired the country’s South Korean short track speed skating national team coach over alleged secretive and cruel training methods that “risked the health” of Russia’s top skaters.
Jang Kwon-ok began to coach the Russian national team in the summer of 2010 after taking the United States team - where he was affectionately known as “Jimmy Jang” - through the Vancouver Olympics.
In the time since, the Russian Skating Union alleged in a website statement, Jang and two assistants “have in different ways tried to subordinate the athletes and monopolize the training base.”
It all culminated in an impasse after a training session in Salt Lake City at the end of last week, when one of Jang’s assistants, Choi Kwang-bok, ordered a recovering Russian skater to do 30 extra laps for adopting a bad posture, the union said.
The head of the Russian coaching staff Anatoly Brasalin canceled the punishment, prompting a protest from Jang, who refused to continue training while Brasalin was still in a job.
The union sided with Brasalin, saying Jang’s methods “could have had unfortunate consequences” for the skater involved, who wasn’t named.
“In a crude transfer of the Korean methodology onto our soil we risked losing all our talented athletes through injury or health problems,” the union said. “We couldn’t leave the team unsupervised. It was necessary to keep control of the Korean coaches all the time.”
“Despite many injuries to the athletes, they continued working with the national team according to the Korean formula ‘he who survives will be the champion,” and “categorically refused to share the secrets of preparing the equipment with the Russian coaches,” the statement said.
Jang’s presence in Russia was thought to be instrumental to the decision of South Korea’s three-time Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo to represent the country in international competition, an announcement he made in August.
The Russian Skating Union’s president Aleksei Kravtsov insisted that Jang’s departure would have no impact on Ahn’s future as a Russian athlete. Ahn had an individual training program and wasn’t under Jang’s tutelage, Kravtsov said.
After a reasonably successful skating career Jang retired in 1990 to coach the South Korean national team. He had other coaching jobs in Korea, before finding work in Australia and then the United States, where he became head short track speed skating coach in 2002.
Jang couldn’t be reached for comment.