Angry South Koreans have hit out at biased judging at the Sochi Games after their top skater Kim Yuna was denied back-to-back Olympic golds by Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova. The decision provoked outrage in South Korea, and on Friday a record 1.5 million people signed an online petition demanding an inquiry into the defeat, causing the petition website to crash.
In her final Winter Olympics, 23-year-old Kim was beaten by 5.48 points by Sotnikova, who secured Russia’s first ladies singles gold, despite a flawless performance from South Korea’s most loved and best-known athlete.
Many South Koreans stayed up until the early hours of yesterday expecting to see “Queen Yuna” join Germany’s Katerina Witt and Norway’s Sonja Henie as the only women to win successive Olympic figure skating golds. Instead they were left shocked and angry.
Mainstream newspaper Dong-a Ilbo angrily claimed that the judging, which has been questioned by other athletes in Sochi, was “the home turf score plus [Vladimir] Putin’s score”, referring to the Russian President, who has taken a close personal interest in the Games.
Kim has battled injury to sustain her career and had a long-term duel with Japan’s Mao Asada that saw her win gold in Vancouver four years ago. Many South Koreans said they believed the outcome would have been different had their country been larger and more powerful.
“Why did you invite all of us if you were going to have Putin’s little sports meeting?” Bae Sung-jae, a commentator for broadcaster SBS, wrote on Twitter. The anger at Russia was matched by sympathy for Kim as South Korean television showed endless reruns of her performance on Sochi’s ice through Friday morning along with footage of her rise to fame from her initial steps on ice as a young girl.
Despite the loss in Sochi, the phrase “Thank you, Yuna” topped the most searched keyword on the nation’s biggest internet portals Naver and Daum throughout yesterday morning. The skater thanked her fans after her loss. “What mattered was that I was here to compete,” she said.
After 17 years as a skater that saw her rise from a six-year-old who dabbled in figure skating for fun to become Olympic and world champion, Kim is now preparing to hang up her skates. Although she has not announced any specific plans, she has said she will not leave the sport completely.