China claims controversial Olympic win after USA, Russian disqualifications
A speed skater has suggested that "any other country than China" would not have been allowed to reach the final by the judges after the host nation claimed a podium one-two in a speed skating event marred by disqualifications and penalties at the Winter Olympics.
Hungary's Liu Shaolin crossed the finish line first at the men's 1,000-meter short-track speed skating event at the Beijing Games, only to be denied a historic first gold medal at the showpiece for his country after he was rued to have made too much contact with a skate, having been given a yellow card for multiple infringements.
That allowed Ren Ziwei to finish first despite Reuters reporting that he 'appeared to grab' Shaolin in a tight finish.
China's Li Wenlong took silver ahead of Liu Shaoang, Shaolin's brother who is also Hungarian.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Team USA suffered the same fate in the semifinals after a Russian was adjuged to have come between two Chinese skaters during an exchange and a video review declared that an American athlete had entered the race early.
World record holder Hwang Dae-heon, of South Korea, was disqualified during that race for an "illegal late pass causing contact", with the agency reporting that the official screen had announced the decision witout providing further details.
Three of the five skaters in the final were therefore Chinese, with Li said to have confirmed afterwards that the compatriots "help each other out".
"Looking at the way China won the gold medal, I felt bad that my younger team mates had to watch something like that," South Korean short track speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy said in comments reported by the 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 penalized. The Dutch skaters who were watching it 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 it.
"If it had been any other country than China in that situation, I wondered if that team would still have been allowed to reach the final like that?
"I felt that could have been us at the wrong end of all this. I thought about how upsetting and frustrating it would have been if we'd been a part of that."
Shaoang, whose father is Chinese, said he had comforted his brother afterwards. "We are not referees, there is nothing we can do," he reasoned.
"It was a pretty exciting race from the start to the end. I told him that I was proud of him and that these things happen in short track, to take a rest and come back stronger because tomorrow is another day. He said nothing."
Ren won his second gold of the games after also triumphing in the mixed team relay final.
"It's a tough race – but all short track races are tough," he said. "As for the race, we are short track skaters. It happens. We all fight for gold, never for less than that."
2002 Olympic Games gold medalist Steven Bradbury called the judging performance "unbelievable", according to AAP.
"Nothing could be more favorable for the Chinese team with the judges than what’s happened tonight here in Beijing," the Australian added.
Stephen Gough, the head coach of the American team, said he did not share those views and did not feel China should have been punished.
Alexey Kravtsov, the President of the Russian Skating Union, said his team would not be joining a mooted move by the South Korean Olympic Committee to challenge the results.
“For those episodes where we were given a penalty, we have no complaints about refereeing," he told Match TV.
"As for the [penalties in the] mixed relay, this is definitely our mistake, we all looked at slow replays. The Chinese also had a mistake, but it was a consequence of ours."