The Olympics are, or at least their mission statement says they are, about the pure essence of athletic competition, about good sportsmanship and international fellowship, about athletes from the same nation working together toward the common goal of hearing their national anthem played more often than a new pop song on a Top 40 station.
Two South Korean athletes never got the memo, and now they’re at risk of being kicked off the team for allegedly bullying one of their own teammates after getting eliminated Tuesday from the quarterfinals of ladies’ team pursuit speedskating.
The athletes in question, Kim Bo-Reum and Park Ji Woo, gave their teammate, Noh Seon-yeong, a public call-out over Noh’s poor time in the event.
Kim ripped Noh in an interview, saying she and Park “were skating well. … But the last skater [Noh] couldn’t keep up and we had a disappointing score.”
Team pursuit isn’t a relay; it’s essentially supposed to be three teammates working together, since only the slowest time counts toward the final score.
It is, in essence, the polar opposite in spirit of the old adage, “If you’re being chased by a bear, you don’t have to be the fastest, you just can’t be the slowest.” In this case, if one teammate gets eaten, the other two are Purina Bear Chow as well.
Kim and Park, however, effectively left Noh for dead and then blamed her, not their own lack of teamwork, for a result that even a cursory reading of the rules of the sport would leave obvious in such circumstances.
What those South Korean speedskaters did to their teammate was one of the most savage things I have seen in sport. Incredible
— …. (@Tipsterrr) February 21, 2018
So far, nearly 600,000 Koreans have signed a petition to the nation’s president calling for Kim and Park to be kicked off the team. Its text is in Korean, but roughly translated, it reads, “It’s clearly a disgrace to our national image that these individuals of bad character are representing this country at the Olympics.”
Which is refreshing to American ears; a country that has had athletes like Albert Belle, Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick should be so lucky as to simply be able to ban athletes who make our nation look foolish.
Kim and Park are, however, still competing in speedskating at present, specifically the ladies’ mass start event, in which they are not in position to play “leave me, save yourselves” with any teammates.
They’re unlikely to be pulled from that event, so the net effect of all this probably won’t be much more than excluding them from the closing ceremonies.
It’s possible that, as with many situations in Olympic competition, the real discipline will be meted out once the Games are over.
After all, that’s likely to be the fate of the Russian curlers who got nailed on a doping violation earlier in the Games; once the media spotlight is turned off, a fair hearing can be given.
There’s also the question of whether indeed Noh was the weak link; after all, team pursuit, as much as it relies on teamwork and clever use of aerodynamics to ensure that the slowest skater on a team can benefit as much as possible from the same effect that NASCAR drivers use to draft behind a leader before slipstream passing in a turn, can only do so much if someone simply cannot keep up and it is their poor performance that disqualifies the whole group.
Plus, anyone who’s ever lost a game thanks to a teammate committing an error, shooting 2-for-15 or otherwise playing the team out of the contest knows that in the heat of the moment, it’s easy for frustration to boil over into finger-pointing.
Then again, it sure doesn’t seem like Kim and Park have been terribly keen to apologize.
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