Two South Korean speedskaters who humiliated their teammate are facing a swift backlash from fans who are demanding the women be banned from the national team. The fans’ petition has gathered more than 579,000 signatures over two days.
The painful drama played out on the ice on Monday during the pursuit team quarterfinals race when Noh Seon-Yeong was left behind by the two faster women on the team, leaving Noh to cross the finish line roughly four seconds later — a glacial delay in the sport.
And when she broke down in tears after the race — in which they came in seventh — they ignored her and walked away.
The fans are not having it.
They are furious over the public shaming and unsportsmanlike display by Kim Bo-reum and Park Ji Woo and have launched a petition appealing to the South Korean president to remove the young women from the national team. The online petition calls it “an obvious national disgrace” to have Kim and Park represent the country in the Olympics.
The presidential Blue House responded to the public outcry saying it “plans to respond to the petition at an appropriate time. We will likely pass our recommendations or express our views to relevant bodies,” according to CNN.
Leaving Noh to fend for herself — kind of like a wounded animal on the Sahara — appeared especially vindictive to pursuit team speedskating fans because the race is only over when the final member of a trio finishes the race. Meaning there is nothing to gain by bolting away.
In fact, skaters often trade places between the lead, middle and rear positions — sometimes physically pushing the slowest teammate ahead — to ensure that the pack sticks together and makes it across the finish line as quickly as possible. It is the only speedskating competition where physical contact among racers on the same team is allowed.
Kim and Park also made matters worse in a series of interviews and non-apology apologies. Immediately following the race, Kim talked to The Korea Times. “We practiced a lot for the Olympics and our midway race was quite good,” she said. “As you saw it, the racer was far behind us and the gap had become even wider as we neared the finish line… I regret our record.”
Park similarly insinuated that Noh was to blame for the team’s poor performance and failure to reach the semifinals, according to the newspaper.
The Korean Herald reported both women were met with an onslaught of criticism over social media from fans who say they should have helped Noh and have accused Kim and Park of bullying. Apparently, the flurry of angry posts and comments led Kim to switch her social media accounts to private.
She also offered this statement in a separate news conference: “I think many people were hurt after seeing [the interview after the race] so I am really sorry for that. … I became greedy and focused only when I reached the finish line I realized she was behind.”
Reuters reported the South Korean team finished eighth in the women’s team pursuit final on Wednesday.
After the race, Noh and Kim headed straight to the locker room. Park had one comment: “I’m sorry.”
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