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Viktor Ahn, greatest Olympic short track speed skater, retires again

Viktor Ahn

MOSCOW REGION, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 15, 2019: Russian speed skater Viktor Ahn competes in the 2019 RSU Short-Track Open International Cup at the Kolomna Speed Skating Centre. Sergei Bobylev/TASS (Photo by Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images)

Sergei Bobylev/TASS

Viktor Ahn, the most decorated short track speed skater in Olympic history, has retired for the second time in 20 months, according to Russia’s skating federation.

Ahn, a six-time gold medalist between Russia and South Korea, announced his retirement in a letter published by R-Sport.

The 34-year-old wrote that he wasn’t in form to continue for another season, citing constant knee pain and other injuries.

Ahn previously announced retirement in September 2018, then returned for the 2019-20 World Cup season. His campaign was cut short last fall, however, due to a reported knee injury.

Ahn earned four medals and three golds each at the 2006 Olympics for South Korea (as Ahn Hyun-Soo, a top rival to Apolo Ohno) and the 2014 Olympics for Russia.

Had Ahn continued to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, he would have bid to break American Cathy Turner‘s record as the oldest Olympic short track skater in history, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

He missed South Korea’s team for the 2010 Olympics after undergoing four knee surgeries in the 15 months leading up to the Olympic Trials. Ahn’s club team dissolved, and his father contacted Russia’s federation. He became a citizen in 2011.

The International Olympic Committee did not invite Ahn to compete in the PyeongChang Olympics, the only way he could have competed in his birth nation due to sanctions placed on Russia for its poor anti-doping record.

“Not being included on the invitation list does not necessarily mean that an athlete has been doped -- it should not automatically cast doubt on their integrity,” Valerie Fourneyron, who chaired the IOC panel determining Russian invites, said after the list of invited athletes was released. “The IOC would like to make clear that there may still be further enquiries and further anti-doping procedures coming up against a number of those athletes who have not been included on the pool of athletes considered for invitation.”

That exclusion prompted Ahn, who had never been implicated publicly in any doping cases, to write an open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach.

“It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping,” Ahn wrote.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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