South Korean speed skater 'found it difficult to accept' decision that allowed China to win mixed relay gold

China's first gold in the Beijing Winter Olympics didn't come without controversy. (Getty)
China's first gold in the Beijing Winter Olympics didn't come without controversy. (Getty)

You can’t have the Olympics without controversy and questionable officiating – just ask the Canadian women’s 2012 soccer team or Jamie Salé and David Pelletier.

The latest case of debatable refereeing has South Korean short-track speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy calling out what he feels was favouritism shown to the home side.

In the mixed-team relay semifinal on Saturday, Hungary finished first and the United States placed second, advancing to the final and knocking out favourites China – or so they thought.

Upon video review after the race, both the United States and Russian Olympic Committee were disqualified for obstruction, while China came away with a last-second final berth. It’s a decision Kwak still can’t wrap his head around, even though it didn’t directly affect South Korea.

"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 told South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "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.

"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."

Of course, China — the favourite entering the mixed-relay event — didn’t only go on to the final, but ended up winning gold.

Beyond feeling some bitterness over watching China triumph in what he felt was an unfair manner, Kwan, 32, felt disheartened and concerned for younger Olympians.

"Looking at the way China won the gold medal, I felt bad that my younger teammates had to watch something like that," Kwak said. "I thought to myself, 'Is this really what winning a gold medal is all about?' Things all just felt very hollow."

Despite having his dreams of making the final dashed, unlike Kwak, USA head coach Stephen Gough didn’t agree that China should have gone down with his team and the ROC.

"I don't share that point of view, that China should've also been penalized," he told Reuters.

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