The results of the women’s short track speed skating 500-meter final at the 2018 Winter Olympics were a story by themselves.
Italy’s Arianna Fontana, who entered her fourth Olympic Games with five medals but no golds, finally stood atop the podium.
But the photo finish that handed her victory wasn’t even the most dramatic aspect of Tuesday’s race.
South Korea’s Choi Min-jeong, the 19-year-old home-crowd favorite, barely lost out to Fontana. But the teenager’s skate was at worst admirable, and at best heroic despite defeat. A silver medal on home soil was something to be proud of.
But race officials didn’t just take their time reviewing the photo finish. They deliberated for a while before deciding to disqualify Choi for interference, lifting Canada's Kim Boutin to bronze. The Korean crowd, which had been chanting Choi’s name, fell into stunned silence.
And then disbelief turned to anger. Why had Choi been penalized, especially if she was the one who had seemingly been pushed by Boutin earlier in the race?
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Nobody was quite sure, while some also pointed out an incident between Choi and Fontana.
But Boutin, who ended up on the medal stand despite finishing fourth, became a convenient and unfortunate subject of fans’ anger. She became the villain.
Korean fans flooded to Boutin’s latest Instagram post, from a day earlier. The post quickly accumulated over 13,000 comments in a matter of hours, many of them in Korean. Some were downright terrible:
- "Aren't you ashamed to have cheated in the last Olympic Games?"
- "You're not a real athlete!"
- "You know what? You should be disqualified. Shame on you!"
- "If I find you, you will die."
- "Retire and I hope you have a hard life."
Some of the Korean comments reportedly downplayed Boutin's involvement in the disqualification and attempted to direct fans' frustration towards the officials.
It’s not the first time South Korean skating fans have abused a Korean skater’s opponent. Four years ago in Sochi, they believed Great Britain’s Elise Christie was guilty of causing Park Seung-Hi to crash. They went at Christie with endless threats.
“The way the Koreans responded had made me scared of living,” Christie said recently.
“I couldn’t sleep. I was worried. I know it seems so dramatic. But I thought people actually did want to kill me.”
Boutin has also protected her Twitter account to try to shield herself from similar threats.
with Harry Bushnell, Yahoo Sports