Another Olympics, another short track speedskating controversy involving South Korea.
Eight years after Kim Dong-Sung had his gold medal stripped when judges determined he cut off Apolo Anton Ohno, the country was served another crushing disqualification when its women's 3,000 meter relay team had gold taken away when it was ruled that a skater had illegally bumped a Chinese competitor on a turn. The DQ moved China to the gold medal position and gave the United States a surprise bronze.
If the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung in 2002 is any indication, South Koreans will be irate with the decision. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, in the hours after Kim's DQ, his fans flooded IOC servers with 16,000 angry emails protesting the call. It certainly won't help matters that the ref who disqualified Kim eight years ago was the same ref who made the fateful decision Wednesday in Vancouver.
Yes, South Korea, Jim Hewish did it to you again. The chief referee was in a precarious situation though. The offending bump was obvious, but it wasn't clear that it should lead to a disqualification. Relays tend to be judged a little looser than regular short track events, so there was thought that Hewish might let the contact go. But after three minutes of deliberation, he decided that the bump had impeded China's progress.
It wasn't the wrong call, but it wasn't the right one either. Short track rulings are judgment calls and this was the definition of one. The ruling was a no-win proposition that was going to make one side furious no matter what.
By sliding into bronze medal position, the Americans won the nation's first short track women's medals since 1994. It seemed to be a bittersweet moment for the quartet. They seemed pleased with the bronze but also had looks that suggested that they knew they hadn't earned one. It's an appropriate sentiment at the time -- how much should one really celebrate lucking onto the podium -- but one that should hopefully fade over time. They may have backed into bronze, but as the fourth-best relay team in the world. Don't say it wasn't earned.
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