A star American figure skater is accused of intentionally injuring a South Korean rival with her skate blade, according to news reports.
Mariah Bell, 22, allegedly attacked 16-year-old Lim Eun-soo on Wednesday during their final warm-up before the ladies’ short program at the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, Japan, cutting her left calf with her skate blade, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The incident — which recalls the infamous incident at the 1994 Winter Games, when Tonya Harding was accused of hiring someone to injure her chief rival, Nancy Kerrigan — appeared to be premeditated, according to a representative for Lim’s management agency, All That Sports.
Lim was skating near the walls in an effort to avoid contact with others when Bell approached her from behind, the rep said.
“Lim was slowly skating on the edge of the rink after completing her turn,” the representative said, according to the Telegraph. “Mariah Bell, who was scheduled to rehearse after Lim, suddenly kicked and stabbed Lim’s calf with her skate blades.”
“Mariah Bell didn’t apologise to Lim Eun-soo after the incident and instead continued to rehearse for her routine,” the spokesman continued. “We believe this is not a minor situation that can happen in an official rehearsal.”
Lim’s wound was bandaged in time for her to take the ice — and she still defeated her rival, coming in fifth place with a personal high, 72.91 points, the outlet reported. Bell ranked sixth with 71.25 points.
The agency has requested that the Korea Skating Union lodge an official complaint against Bell on Lim’s behalf.
Both skaters are trained by coach Rafael Arutyunyan in Los Angeles. For months before the alleged attack, Bell had been bullying Lim — and even targeted her in a verbal tirade just before the world championships, the sports agency told the outlet.
A Korea Skating Union official told Agence France-Presse that “at this stage we can’t conclude Bell caused the injury on purpose,” adding that “it is hard to tell just by watching the video footage of the incident.”
And in a statement, the International Skating Union said that the incident was “verbally reported to the ISU by the Korean Team Leader, however no formal complaint has been received.”
“Based on the evidence at hand at this point in time, which includes a video, there is no evidence that Ms. Bell intended any harm to Ms. Lim,” the statement said.
“The ISU met with delegates from both USA and Korea and urged both parties to find an amicable solution. The ISU maintains that this remains the appropriate approach.”
Bell, who began skating at three years old, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Monument, Colorado, according to her Team USA profile.
Neither skater has commented on the incident.