S.Korea-born skater brings new hope for team, himself
Lin bags first golds for China
Published: Feb 06, 2023 04:34 PM
Poster of Lin Xiaojun Photo: Screenshot from Sina Weibo

Poster of Lin Xiaojun Photo: Screenshot from Sina Weibo

China's short track speed skater Lin Xiaojun bagged two gold medals at the ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in Dresden, Germany on Sunday. This was Lin's maiden win representing Team China at a world-level competition after completing his naturalization process.

Formerly known as Lim Hyo-jun, he won gold in the men's 1,500 ­meters representing South Korea at the 2018 ­Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Lin on Sunday earned the first World Cup title for China with 41.329 seconds in the men's 500-meter event.

He and the Chinese team's Li Wenlong, Liu Guanyi and Zhong Yuchen later won the men's 5,000-meter relay with six minutes 51.106 seconds.

In a video circulating online, Lin is seen celebrating with his fists clenched before he gives an emotional hug to the coach as he weeps.

The Chinese short track speed skating team released a poster on China's Twitter-like Weibo congratulating Lin, who then forwarded the poster on his own Weibo account thanking all the ­Chinese fans who have supported him. 

"We are the Chinese team, and we will work harder in the future. Please give more encouragement to our young short track speed skating team," read the post.

"Despite the long and difficult journey, I never gave up and worked hard," Lin wrote on Instagram. "I would like to express my deepest appreciation to everyone who has supported and congratulated me. I'm very thankful for my teammates, coaches, staff, and everyone who has helped shape me to be in this position. I will continue to strive and never give up on my dreams."

The news of Lin's win, however, triggered dissatisfaction among South ­Korean netizens. 

In the comment section of a South Korean news report on the event, more than 70 percent of the comments expressed anger over Lin's win.

In March 2021, South Korean media outlet YTN disclosed Lin's naturalization, saying that Lin acquired Chinese citizenship as early as June 2020.

Later on January 29, 2022, Lin publicly expressed his position on social media for the first time after joining Team China, saying, "It has been 11 months since I came to China, and people have a warm heart. I like China and I will continue to live in China in the future."

Lin's Chinese naturalization caused great controversy back in South Korea.

Many South Korean netizens expressed their disappointment toward their top athlete, and some satirized him and told him to "never come back."

South Korean news agency Ohmy­News once published an opinion over Lin's departure claiming that his departure has left a scar on South Korean short track speed skating.

In response to targeted pressure stemming from his immigration to China, Lin's Brion Company in 2021 defended him in a statement saying that "he just wanted to find ways to put his skates back on."

However, regarding Lin's naturalization and his achievements on Sunday, sports critics have expressed positive views over whether it is good for him or the Chinese short track speed skating team.

"Lin's naturalization has provided a good opportunity for both Team China and himself," Chinese sports critic Luo Le told the Global Times on Monday.

As two of the dominant forces in short-track speed skating, China and South Korea have enjoyed a "love-hate" relationship due to their frequent matchups and clashes on the track. South ­Korea's Kim Sun-tae was the head coach of the Chinese team at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, while Viktor Ahn Hyun-soo, who changed his ­nationality to Russian after years of service in Team South Korea, was his assistant.

Chinese skater Lin Xiaojun celebrates after winning the men's 500-meter final in the ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in Dresden, Germany, on February 5, 2023. Photo: VCG

Chinese skater Lin Xiaojun celebrates after winning the men's 500-meter final in the ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in Dresden, Germany, on February 5, 2023. Photo: VCG

Achievements at the last two Winter Olympics show the progress of China's short track speed skating team: The team won two golds, one silver and one bronze at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, compared to the one gold and two silvers at the Pyeongchang Games.

In Pyeongchang, China's three-time Olympic competitor Wu Dajing won the only gold medal for China in the men's 500 meters.

In an exclusive interview with Wu on Saturday, he told the Global Times that his yearning for the Olympics will never end.

At the Beijing Winter Games, veteran skater 29-year-old Fan Kexin also performed remarkably well, winning gold in the 2,000-meter mixed relay event with her teammates.

Experts note that the Chinese short track speed skating teams, especially the men's team, can be regarded as the first-tier among the world teams.

However, "even though the veterans are the mainstay force of the team, we should think about the future in order to pass on the honor and spirit of Chinese short track speed skating," another Beijing-based sports critic Shen Dazhi told the Global Times on Monday.

In addition to Lin, the Hungarian-Chinese brothers Liu Shaolin and Liu Shaoang have also become naturalized Chinese citizens, according to Hungarian news website Index. In December 2022, the Hungarian National Skating Federation said in a statement that it agreed to the Liu brothers' request to change their nationality.

According to International Olympic Committee rules, they will be eligible to compete for China at the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.

"Including naturalized competitors, more achievements by national team skaters such as the 24-year-old Ren Ziwei and the young Olympic silver medal winner Li Wenlong show that you can always trust our national short track speed skating team," added Shen.