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- A South Korean speed skater fell behind her teammates during a team event in which the final time is determined by the last racer to finish.
- Comments by the teammates after the race have been widely construed as bullying.
- A petition called for the duo to be kicked off the team has received a lot of support.
A pair of South Korean speed skaters have come under heavy criticism and been accused of bullying after they left their teammate behind during the 500-meter team pursuit quarterfinals event on Monday, according to the Korea Herald.
When Noh Seon-yeong fell behind during the event, her teammates Kim Bo-reum and Park Ji-woo proceeded to leave her behind and cross the finish line without her. This was an unusual move as rankings in the team pursuit skating events are based on when the third skiier in a team crosses the finish line.
Noh ended up finishing the race almost four seconds after her teammates, and the South Korean team failed to qualify for the semifinals.
After the race, comments made by Kim and Park triggered an avalanche of criticism, including an online petition on the South Korean president’s official website with over two-hundred-thousand signatures calling for the pair to be expelled from the South Korean Olympic team.
“I think we were skating well,” Kim told a reporter after the race, per the Herald. “But then the last skater (Noh) could not keep up with the speed and we ended up with a disappointing score.”
Park claimed that she did not realize Noh was not with them until they had already crossed the finish line, something many fans find hard to believe, given the nature of the event.
TV cameras also caught Noh sobbing after the race and Kim and Park both ignoring her. Only her coach, Bob De Jong, attempted to comfort Noh.
On Tuesday Baek Cheol-gi, the team’s coach, threw an abrupt press conference to address the controversy, but despite previous announcements that all three skaters would be there, only Kim appeared.
“The coach said Noh was not feeling well, while Park had been severely affected by the mounting criticism,” reported the Herald.
Kim, for her part, offered a tearful apology, according to the Herald, saying, “I apologize to those who have been affected by what I said during the TV interview yesterday.”