Korea’s three-time Olympic gold medalist in short track speed skating Ahn Hyun-Soo has decided to represent Russia in international competition, the Russian Skating Union said in a statement Tuesday.
Ahn, 25, among the world’s most decorated speed skaters with his sweep of three golds and one bronze at the Turin Games in 2006 and a five-time world champion, has been training in Russia since failing to qualify for the Vancouver Olympics last year.
Russian Skating Union president Aleksei Kravtsov said Ahn had asked to skate for Russia, where he has settled into the training regime and has set the target of gold in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
“In no way is this just a flying visit,” Kravtsov said. Ahn “has long been interested in Russian culture, is learning the Russian language and plans to move to Russia to live permanently,” Kravtsov said, adding he had applied with the government to grant Ahn Russian citizenship.
Ahn dominated the sport in the last decade, taking five straight world titles between 2003 and 2007, and winning the 1,500 meter, 1000 meter and 5000 meter relay events in Turin.
But since injuring his knee in 2008 and undergoing four surgeries in 15 months, Ahn has struggled to recapture his form.
He brushed aside speculation about his retirement and in an effort to regroup moved this year to Russia, where compatriot Jang Kwon-ok is a national team coach.