Bell cleared of intent to hurt Lim

Figure skaters Mariah Bell (above) and Lim Eun-soo both train with Georgian-Armenian coach Rafael Arutyunyan.
Figure skaters Mariah Bell (above) and Lim Eun-soo both train with Georgian-Armenian coach Rafael Arutyunyan.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ISU finds no proof US skater deliberately cut South Korean rival; fans divided on social media

SAITAMA • Figure skating's ruling body yesterday cleared Mariah Bell of deliberately attempting to injure rival Lim Eun-soo during a warm-up at the world championships in Japan.

South Korean officials protested following Wednesday's incident, in which Lim's management agency alleged the American kicked their skater, causing a cut to her leg, while limbering up for the women's short programme.

But the International Skating Union (ISU) has decided not to take any further action after reviewing the events that transpired.

In a statement, the organisation said: "Based on the evidence at hand at this point in time, which includes a video, there is no evidence that Ms Bell intended any harm to Ms Lim.

"The ISU met with delegates from both USA and Korea and urged both parties to find an amicable solution. The ISU maintains that this remains the appropriate approach."

It added that the incident was "verbally reported" to the ISU by the South Korean team leader but no formal complaint had been received.

The video of the coming together quickly surfaced on social media and appeared to show Bell, 22, approach Lim from behind at the edge of the ice rink with her leg outstretched before gliding past.

Lim, 16, was observed to be grimacing in pain before being patched up. She returned to the ice to finish fifth in the short skate, one place ahead of Bell.

American skate officials have so far declined to comment after the All That Sports agency, which represents Lim, felt there was reason to believe the act was deliberate.

The incident has divided fans on social media, with over 6,000 comments posted on Bell's last Instagram picture almost two weeks ago, with many of them purportedly from South Korean fans incensed by the American's actions.

While the pair both train under Georgian-Armenian coach Rafael Arutyunyan, South Korean media had claimed Bell had been "bullying Lim for months" leading up to the world championships.

However, netizens have also pointed out there had been no past history between Bell and Lim.

One user tweeted the latter had "only (said) nice things about Mariah and vice versa" and "it was an accident", while another expressed incredulity over the alleged clash, tweeting: "Mariah Bell is a bully? LOL".

Although rink collisions in practice are not uncommon, figure skating has been embroiled in controversy before.

The sport's most infamous case happened when American Tonya Harding's former husband and bodyguard was found to have masterminded an assault on her rival and compatriot Nancy Kerrigan in the lead-up to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'Bell cleared of intent to hurt Lim'. Print Edition | Subscribe