It’s amazing how history repeats itself.
Especially in an Olympic speed skating event with South Korea participating. Last night, Korea seemed to write another chapter about its dominance in the women’s 3000 meter relay by winning its fifth consecutive gold medal, edging out China in a race that registered high on the thrill-o-meter scale. The two teams had battled for the lead throughout the contest, but when Kim Min Jung passed Sun Linlin of China with five laps remaining, Korea took control of the race and cruised to an apparent victory finishing with a world-record time of 4:06:07.
But not so fast.
This is speed-skating, a sport where the slightest penalty can completely alter the result of a race. Replays showed that Kim certainly made contact with Lin, but the contact seemed to be an incidental bump—as she executed a tight pass onto the inside part of the track– rather than a deliberate foul. However after carefully studying the tape, officials ruled that Kim had impeded with Sun—which caused the Chinese skater to lose speed, and promptly disqualified Korea from the race, allowing China to claim the gold medal. The Korean squad had already taken a victory lap. They were clearly stunned.
For many Korean speed-skating fans, the incident undoubtedly triggered unpleasant memories of Kim Dong Sung’s controversial DQ of the 1500 meter event at the 2002 Olympics, where Kim lost his gold medal to Apollo Anton Ono after being called for blocking foul. That sparked a thunderstorm of outrage in Korea, with an intense rivalry in speed skating between the United States and Korea resulting in the aftermath.
South Korean coach Choi Kwangbok said he tried to appeal the ruling in last night’s race but there was no regulation to appeal a decision in short track. “I must accept the decision,” he said afterwards. Unfortunately his athletes—Cho Ha-ri, Kim Min-jung, Lee Eun-Byul and Park Seung-Hi—who worked so hard to reach the pinnacle of success in Vancouver, must do the same.
Photo Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald