In team pursuit, the finishing time is set by the third and last skater crossing the line. Normally, the first rider sets the pace and takes the air pressure head on while the other two follow in the draft. Skaters are also allowed to cooperate, including pushing their slower teammates from behind.
But in their quarterfinal heat, it seemed Kim and Park weren’t putting much effort into helping Noh keep pace and stay in the pack.
Some South Koreans believe Kim and Park were trying to humiliate Noh because there was nothing to be gained by crossing first.
It was regretful, since it’s the time of the last skater that counts. If our last skater had come in a bit earlier we might have made the semifinals. But it’s finished, Kim said after the race.
As the public anger grew, Kim appeared in a news conference with her coach on Tuesday and tearfully offered her "sincere apology" and said she didn’t realize Noh was that far off until it was too late.
It’s clearly a disgrace to our national image that these individuals of bad character are representing this country at the Olympics, the petition says.
The petition also calls for an investigation into what it describes as "various corruption and irregularities" at the Korea Skating Union, the national skating body. The union has come under criticism for many years for alleged factionalism and nepotism in selecting athletes to compete for the Olympics.
There was no immediate comment by the union.
Both Kim and Park are from the Korea National Sports University, whose athletes and alumni have been at the center of factional disputes in the country’s super-competitive speedskating scene.
Skaters from other schools have previously complained that athletes with ties to the university are favored in domestic competitions to pick athletes for the Olympics and other international events. That’s believed to be particularly true in short-track speedskating where multiple athletes can work together - jostling for position, blocking and ceding - to improve the chance that a certain athlete wins.
Ahead of the Olympics, Noh reportedly complained that she wasn’t getting much time to train with Kim and Park, who were practicing separately at the university.
On Wednesday night, Noh skated with Kim and Park again in a two-team race to determine seventh place. As the stadium’s announcer called out their names, the crowd quietly acknowledged Kim and Park, but saved a thunderous cheer for Noh.
The Koreans lost to Poland and finished eighth.