The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is well underway and the international event continues to wow the global audience with the various sports games at play. While teams from all over the world gather and compete for medals and honors, one particular short-track speed skating team has become the center of attention as of late.
On February 7, 2022, the intense short-track speed skating competition took place at the Capital Indoor Stadium. For the first time ever, the short-track speed skating discipline introduced a “mixed team relay” event at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Amid the speed, the thrill, and the chaos, the hosting Team China was crowned the ultimate winner—taking home their first gold medal for the competition.
Unfortunately, as the Chinese skaters celebrated the victory, South Korean skaters expressed frustration with how the game unfolded. China’s gold medal has been met with extreme criticism from the South Korean general audience who accused the team of “cheating.”
Following the event, in an interview with the South Korean press, South Korean short-track speed skater Kwak Yoon Gy questioned the legitimacy of China’s victory. According to Yonhap News, the Olympic skater shared his disappointment with the supposed “biased judging” he witnessed during the event.
Kwak referred to the Chinese team’s surprising progression made from the semifinals all the way to the final event. China originally placed third in the semifinals, with Hungary finishing first and the United States finishing second. Since the top two teams would advance to the next round, China was ultimately disqualified.
Following the conclusion of the semifinals, however, it was concluded that Team US had violated a rule, which led to their penalty of disqualification. This pushed Team China to the finals instead.
Additionally, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was also disqualified during this specific speed skating event for interfering in between two Chinese skaters during their relay exchange. This caused the two Chinese skaters, Ren Ziwei and Zhang Yuting, to miss their tap. While mis-taps are also causes of disqualification, the Chinese team was allowed to advance to the next round.
Kwak Yoon Gy shared some transparent thoughts on the disqualifications and the overall situation, explaining that he found it “difficult to accept” the outcome. He alluded to the potential bias that could have happened, though his opinion remains an allegation.
I was watching that race unfold. I figured China, ROC, and the U.S. would get penalized. The Dutch skaters who were watching with me said the same thing. But as the review dragged on, I figured China was going to be allowed to progress. And when the call was finally made, I found it difficult to accept.
— Kwak Yoon Gy for Yonhap News
Kwak’s statement fueled further allegations of “biased judging,” or the act of the referees practicing leniency toward the host of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Korean online communities became outraged as some video clips of a Chinese speed skater allegedly pushing a lane marker toward their opponent began circulating. While some believed it to have been an accident, others argued that “the Chinese skater’s hand could be seen grabbing the black marker and pushing it forward with intention.”
Koreans also criticized an instance of a Chinese skater using both of their hands to push their opponent away, causing the said opponent to fall backward. NBC Sports commented, “A skater is not allowed to deliberately block, charge, impede or push another skater”—and such behavior would normally result in disqualification. Based on the fact that the “offending” Chinese skater was not disqualified for the two-handed push, Koreans fiercely criticized the competition to be “rigged.”
South Korean online communities and social media platforms saw an influx of thousands of comments, containing general disappointment over the alleged unfairness of the games and rage at the Chinese team for “playing dirty.”
- “Wow, this is unbelievable. They call this the Olympics? It’s a f*cking circus.”
- “How would this qualify as the Olympics? They’re being bullies. LOL.”
- “I didn’t get a chance to watch the short-track events, so this is the first time I’m seeing all the clips. I can’t believe that actually happened?! And didn’t get disqualified?! But rather, won the gold medal? That’s insane. Are the Chinese people incapable of being ashamed?”
- “What is the point of hosting the Olympics? Haha. I hope they’re happy winning gold by playing dirty. They should host and compete by themselves.”
- “What the heck is this? It makes no sense.”
- “What is even happening?”
- “Uh… the f*ck? What is that?”
As the short-track speed skating event continues to receive more press coverage, both in and outside Korea, South Koreans grow more doubtful that the game had been hosted and played fair. Meanwhile, the head coach Stephen Gough of the disqualified United States team told Reuters, “[he doesn’t] share that point of view, that China should’ve also been penalized.”
China currently ranks 4th in the overall medal count for the Olympics—with two gold medals and two silver medals.