China has won two gold medals in Olympic speedskating. But there are questions surrounding these triumphs since both medals seem to have been made possible, at least in part, by judges declaring penalties for other competitors.
On Saturday, in the semifinal heat of the mixed team relay of speedskating, the U.S. finished second, just one spot ahead of China. Finishing second would have given the U.S. a berth in the final, USA Today reported.
But upon a review of the video footage, a judge ruled that the U.S. had committed an infraction. This disqualified the U.S. and elevated to second place the Chinese team, which then went on to claim a gold medal in the final.
“Apparently one of our teammates crossed the blue line, and that made the Chinese team miss their exchange or something like that,” said Maame Biney, who skated in the first heat but was not on the ice for the semifinal, according to USA Today.
“It was an interesting call, for sure. But it is what it is,” she said.
In a separate speedskating event, on Monday, China once again benefited from a penalty call.
China took the gold in the men’s 1,000-meter speedskating race, even though Chinese skater Ren Ziwei was not the first to cross the finish line, Yahoo News reported.
Shaolin Sandor Liu of Hungary was the first competitor to finish, with Ren a close second, in a chaotic ending.
However, Liur received a yellow card and two lane-violation penalties once the video of the race was reviewed, according to Yahoo News. This robbed him of the gold, which went to Ren.
The yellow card and penalties resulted from what appeared to be Liu bumping into Ren, who then grabbed Liu as they came to the finish line.
Second place went to Li Wenlong, another Chinese competitor, Reuters reported.
Liu’s brother, Liu Shaoang, won third place, according to Reuters.
“The race today was tough. It was full of twists and turns. I don’t think there is any question or doubt. Everyone earned it,” Li said.
However, these significant penalties have been called out by spectators, especially since they ultimately resulted in two gold medals for China.
In the 1,000-meter race, some tweeted that Liu clearly committed fouls, but others pointed out that these calls in favor of China are suspicious.
Another Olympic speed skater even went so far as to question the fairness of the judging after the relay race where U.S. team was disqualified.
South Korean short-track speedskater Kwak Yoon-gy told reporters the Chinese win was suspect, according to the South Korean Yonhap News Agency. He thought the Chinese skater, the U.S. skater, and a skater from the Russian Olympic Committee would be disciplined.
“I was watching that race unfold. I figured China, ROC and the U.S. would get penalized. The Dutch skaters who were watching it with me said the same thing,” he said, according to Yonhap.
“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,” Kwak said. “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?”
Many viewers have also expressed suspicion over China’s triumphs.
“The Olympic Short Track Speed Skating officiating has been terrible,” wrote Spencer Swoboda, the podcaster of “Spencer Speaks Sports.” “Very suspicious based on who has benefitted from the reviews.”