The South Korean association said the 60-year-old Chen has signed on for one year at 35 million won (US$31,395). South Korean officials first contacted Chen last November during the Guangzhou Asian Games in southeastern China. Officials said the Chinese coach at first wasn't interested, but after visiting Seoul for a week in January to watch the gymnasts, he decided to take on the South Korean team.
"We hope Coach Chen will bring the advanced Chinese coaching system here and help our athletes strengthen fundamentals," an official with the South Korean association said.
South Koreans said they've noted Chen's track record of having nurtured successful young female Chinese gymnasts. His pupils include Huang Qiushuang, a double gold medal winner from the Guangzhou Asia Games; Yang Yilin, a member of the gold medal-winning Chinese team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics; and Wu Liufang, who grabbed four titles on last year's World Cup circuit. They're all 18 or younger.
"In the early 1990s, our female gymnasts worked with a Chinese coach named Pan Chenfei for six months and improved immensely," recalled one gymnastics official. "We're hoping for even better results this time around."
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The South Korean women's team ranked 20th at the team all-round category at last year's World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in the Netherlands. It was the country's best world championship finish in the women's team event in 13 years.
But officials say they feel this year should be a turnaround, as Heo Seon-mi and Park Kyung-jin, both junior standouts, have turned 16 this year and have thus become eligible for senior competitions. And bringing in a proven coach such as Chen should accelerate their development, officials added.
In the Couch Gymnast's recent article "In Opinion: The Obvious Decline of Quality", it mentioned how Australia and France have been both benefited from some fine Chinese coaching.