S.Korea seeks foreign athletes for Olympics

Source:AFP Published: 2016/12/2 23:43:40

South Korea is to naturalize a German luge racer, officials said Friday, in a bid to pack its winter sports stable with more foreign talent ahead of the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

"The justice ministry endorsed a recommendation made by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) for the naturalization of Aileen Frisch," KOC spokesman Park Dong-hee said.

Frisch still needs to pass a final interview set for sometime later this month, he said.

Once she passes the interview, she will receive dual citizenship and be qualified from January to compete for South Korea in international events including the 2018 Winter Games.

The 24-year-old, who won several gold medals in junior international competitions, retired from luge racing after failing to make the German national team for the 2015-16 season.

She was approached by Korean sports officials last year.

"Competition is fierce for a spot on the German national team so the athletes gladly compete for other countries at the Olympics," said an official at the Korea Luge Federation who declined to be named.

Germany won every luge gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. South Korea by comparison has only just built its first luge track.

As it gears up to host its first-ever Winter Olympic Games, South Korea has been looking abroad to swell its team's ranks and boost its medal hopes.

Two Russian competitors in the biathlon  were given Korean citizenship in April and the Korean national ice hockey team currently has six naturalized players. Two ice dancers from Russia and America are also in the process of applying for Korean citizenship.

The influx has led to criticism that the country is trying to buy medals, and stripping Korean athletes of their chance to compete - charges Park denied.

"As the host country of the Olympics, we have to perform at a certain level," he explained. "It also has many positive aspects like stimulating local athletes to perform better and expanding South Korea's overall performance in that sport."

Posted in: WINTER SPORT

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