- Accusations of bias from officials at the Beijing Olympics are cropping up just days into the games.
- In several short track speed skating races, controversial penalties have benefitted Chinese athletes.
- South Korea's Kwak Yoon-gy questioned the outcomes "if it had been any other country than China."
Controversy is already shrouding the short track speed skating competition in Beijing just a few days into this year's Winter Olympics.
Several questionable penalties across multiple races in the sport have helped Chinese athletes advance or earn medals at the games. And now, some are sounding alarm bells that bias among Olympic officials may be to blame.
South Korea's Kwak Yoon-gy spoke out after Saturday's short track speed skating mixed team relay, which saw China survive a semifinal race only after the disqualification of the Russian Olympic Committee and the United States — both of whom finished ahead of the host nation. After a video review, the ROC earned a penalty for "causing obstruction," while the US was docked for "blocking."
China later went on to win gold in the final.
"Looking at the way China won the gold medal, I felt bad that my younger teammates had to watch something like that," Kwak said via the Yonhap news agency, per Reuters. "I thought to myself, 'Is this really what winning a gold medal is all about?' Things all just felt very hollow."
Kwak went on to question whether the results would have stood "if it had been any other country than China in that situation."
"I felt that could have been us at the wrong end of all this," he added. "I thought about how upsetting and frustrating it would have been if we'd been a part of that."
Two days later, another controversial ending left many challenging the legitimacy of certain short track speed skating results. The men's 1000-meter final, which featured three athletes from China and two from Hungary, came down to the wire — and then a video review.
A mid-race stoppage due to a broken blade embedded in the ice set the race on a bizarre path even before its chaotic conclusion. But in the end, the top of the podium came down to Hungary's Shaolin Sandor Liu and China's Ren Ziwei.
The two were neck-in-neck heading into the final turn, and both extended their legs in an attempt to narrowly edge the other while approaching the finish. Liu Shaolin tumbled to the ice and slid into the far wall as a result, but he appeared to cross the line mere milliseconds before Ren.
That's when the review came into play. The Hungarian was assessed two penalties — one for a lane change that created contact with an opponent and another for using his left hand to obstruct Ren on the final turn. Though Ren retaliated by using both hands to grab Liu Shaolin and shove him down to the ice, he was not issued any punishment.
The result was a yellow card — and disqualification — for Liu Shaolin, elevating Ren to gold and a Chinese teammate to silver.
Here's the explanation from the NBC broadcasters on the call:
—NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 7, 2022
Ren's win earned China its first-ever gold medal in the event. But the Hungarians were visibly devastated by the outcome despite ending the race with a bronze medal.
The other Hungarian in the race — Liu Shaolin's brother, Liu Shaoang — finished well behing the pack but wound up on the podium due to the penalties. And during a post-race media availability, Liu Shaoang explained that he told his brother he was "proud of him" and that "these things happen in short track."
"He said nothing."