KEARNS, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - U.S. speed skater Simon Cho tells ABC 4 News reporter Emerson Lotzia that the controversy surrounding the program and coach Jae Su Chun has kept the team divided.
"It's pretty clear that our team is split," said Cho. "For a sport like short track speedskating...unity is crucial."
Fourteen current members of the national team initially signed a grievance alleging they were abused verbally, physically and psychologically by Chun. Last week U.S. Speedskating administrators suspended Chun and hired an independent law firm to investigative. Shortly after Chun's suspension was handed down, Olympic bronze medalist Lana Gehring and eight of her teammates issued a statement, claiming the allegations against Chun and his assistant Jun Hyung Yeo are “baseless” and “false.”
As you can imagine, the atmosphere surrounding the team at this time is anything but positive.
"People who left [the team] aren't speaking with the people who've decided to stay," Cho told Lotzia.
''Strange really isn't the word,'' Emily Scott told the Associated Press. ''It's uncomfortable at times, but this is my career, and I have to focus on it and focus on what's important for myself.''
Scott is part of a group of short track skaters who pulled away from the U.S. National racing program. She and Cho are both competing this week at the U.S. Single Distance Short Track Speedskating Championships in Kearns.
Cho has worked with Chun for six years. He's chosen to stay with the team, although, he isn't exactly backing his coach.
"There's definitely been mistakes by the coach and the skaters," he said.
Simon's father, Jung, is backing up Chun and his assistant. He says his son's coach has been victimized by the conflicts between U.S. Speedskating and the players’ parents.
“U.S. Speedskating recently stopped the $1,000 of monthly support fund they’ve been providing for the skaters,” Cho told the Korea Times. “The players and their parents got upset and their anger sparked off to Chun.”
Simon feels part of the reason there's a rift between Chun and his skaters comes from Chun's struggles with adjusting to the culture in America.
"Some of it is cultural difference," he said. "Some of it is personal vendetta." Simon goes on to say, "there's a fine line between motivating your athletes aggressively and verbal abuse."
Cho says he has witnessed what he calls "aggressive motivation".
"I guess at some point we all see it, unfortunately,"
An arbitration hearing is set to begin in Salt Lake City next week.