China has shot down “irresponsible” suggestions Winter Olympics judges wrongly disqualified South Korean speed skaters to give Chinese competitors a better shot at the podium.
Lee June-seo and world record holder Hwang Dae-heon were disqualified during Monday evening’s semi-finals of the men’s short track 1000m race in Beijing.
June-seo was booted for making an illegal lane-change, while Dae-heon illegally passed late.
South Korea has since filed a complaint with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the decision, claiming in a press conference its “athletes all played fairly” and should not have been disqualified.
“I believe our athletes all played fairly and I believe they are the winners,” chef de mission Yoon Hong-geun said.
“We hope that such things will never ever happen again in the future.”
He added South Korea had demanded a meeting with the International Olympic Committee to discuss what it believes is Chinese athlete favouritism.
“We plan to do our best to prevent injustice from happening to our athletes in the international ice skating and sporting communities,” the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee KSOC said in a statement.
The removal of the two South Korean skaters from the competition allowed two Chinese competitors to advance to the final and subsequently claim gold and silver.
Swirling speculation the outcome was a result of unfair judging has since been lashed by the Chinese Embassy, which on Wednesday broke its silence over the accusations.
“We can’t help expressing grave concern and proclaim a strict position,” an embassy spokesperson said in a statement.
They stressed the disqualifications were “technical” issues that needed to be followed up by the appropriate bodies, rather than debated online.
“Some South Korean media and politicians have criticised the Chinese government and Beijing Olympics as a whole, even instigating anti-Chinese sentiment, worsening the public sentiment of the two countries and drawing a backlash from Chinese online users,” the statement read.
The official said China would not accept the “irresponsible” rumours its umpires were cheating.
South Korea lodged a protest with the International Skating Union over Hwang’s fate, but that was rejected as disqualification for rule violations cannot be challenged.
Hungary also filed a protest after Liu Shaolin Sandor received a yellow card for two penalties in the 1000m final, but that was rejected too.
The speed skating controversy was not the first time South Korea had taken issue China’s judging, with Korean broadcaster SBS airing a segment titled “Top 10 worst moments of cheating by China” and a newspaper in Seoul publishing an article with the headline: “Just let China take all the medals.”
South Korean speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy also lashed out after China won gold in the mixed team relay.
The host nation finished third in its semi-final but still advanced to the decider after Russia (ROC) and the USA were disqualified for obstruction and blocking, while South Korea was eliminated in a different race. Kwak said China should have been disqualified too.
“Looking at the way China won the gold medal, I felt bad that my younger teammates had to watch something like that,” Kwak said, according to Yonhap news agency.
“I thought to myself, ‘Is this really what winning a gold medal is all about?’ Things all just felt very hollow.
“I was watching that race unfold. I figured China, ROC and the US would get penalised. The Dutch skaters who were watching it with me said the same thing.”