Kim Sun-tae – The man behind China's first gold medal at Beijing 2022
China won its first gold medal at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on Saturday. The quartet of Qu Chunyu, Fan Kexin, Wu Dajing and Ren Ziwei won the dramatic short track speed skating mixed relay final.
And two former well-known South Korean skaters contributed to the achievement.
Kim Sun-tae, 46, joined Team China in June 2019. He became the head coach in October 2021.
Kim first came to China as a coach in Changchun in northeast China's Jilin Province. He trained six skaters for the national team from 2004 to 2006 and from 2010 to 2014, such as Zhou Yang, Liang Wenhao and Han Tianyu.
Having lived with his family in China for many years, Kim is good at Chinese and familiar with Chinese athletes.
Kim is less strict than many South Korean coaches. He thinks that communication with athletes is as important as teaching skills.
"I have to tell them their shortages so that they can have better improvements," Kim said.
Zhou Yang, two-time Olympic short track speed skating women 1,500m champion, recalled the time when she was chosen for the national team to CGTN.
"If you want to be the best man, you must be prepared to suffer the bitterest of the bitter," Kim cited an old Chinese saying in a letter to Zhou in 2006.
"I believe that you will be the world champion one day ... I'm always here to help and support you."
The letter was kept by Zhou for every competition, and she still has it in her wallet. As long as she has questions on skating, she will ask Kim for help.
Kim had been Japan's head coach from 2006 to 2010 and South Korea's between 2014 and 2018. He led South Koreans to win three gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
Another key person in the Chinese team is Victor An, also known as Ahn Hyun-soo. The 37-year-old is currently the technical adviser of China's national team.
He competed for South Korea until 2011, and became a Russian citizen since then.
An won three gold and one bronze medals at the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games when he was 21. But he failed to attend the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. According to his father Ahn Ki-won, that was because of injuries and disagreements with other athletes and the Korea Skating Union (KSU).
After another four years, An competed for Russia and won three gold and one bronze medals again in Sochi in 2014.
"No pain, no gain" was an impressive sentence on An's helmet to encourage him during competitions.
An is a good friend of Chinese woman skater Wang Meng, a four-time Olympic champion. They have known each other since 2002.
Wang invited An to be a coach in China for the first time in 2018. He made the decision in 2019 and announced his retirement as an athlete in April 2020.
Unlike normal coaches, An skates together with athletes to instruct them better.
Wang highly praised An and regards him as a "legend" in short track speed skating.
Kim and An are not the first South Korean coaches to succeed in China. Kim Chang-back, former head coach of China's national women's field hockey team, is among South Korean coaches who has helped Chinese sports.
In March 2021, Lim Hyo-jun, 26, another South Korean Olympic short track speed skating champion, took Chinese citizenship.
Lim allegedly pulled down the pants of his male teammate in front of several women during a national team training session in South Korea in June 2019. Being accused of sexual harassment, he received a one-year suspension from speed skating two months later.
Because of the three-year cooling-off period for controversial skaters, he will be allowed to compete for China after March. Now he is an athlete in north China's Hebei Province and trained with Chinese athletes before the Winter Olympics.
South Korea tops the historical Olympic medal list of short track speed skating in the world with 48 medals, including 24 golds.
But it has been beset by scandals of infighting, sexual harassment and bullying.
In 2019, Shim Suk-hee stated that she was sexually abused by the former coach Cho Jae-beom when she was a teenager.
Noh Jin-kyu, South Korea's former short track world champion, died of cancer at the age of 23 in 2016.
His sister, Noh Seon-Yeong, who is also a skater, alleged that KSU ignored her brother's illness in 2014, even when he was in great pain.
Noh Seon-yeong was involved in another scandal that she was bullied by her teammates Kim Bo-reum and Park Ji-woo in 2018, while in 2019 Kim alleged that Noh had always bullied her since 2010.
In January 2021, Kim announced that she had sued Noh to seek a 200 million won (US$167,000) compensation for mental anguish.
The quarrels and conflicts may distract athletes from their daily training. It also probably makes athletes heartbroken. As Noh Seon-yeong posted on her social media, she "no longer was proud" to represent her country.
The new Olympic motto of "Faster, Stronger, Higher and Together" should not only be cherished during the pandemic, but for all time.