Another Tonya and Nancy skating scandal? Not quite
When Mariah Bell of the U.S. clipped South Korea’s Lim Eun-soo in an official practice session at figure skating’s World Championships this week in Japan the incident sent the sport and the global media into a state of hyperventilation at the prospect of Tonya and Nancy 2.0.
Lim suffered cut to her left calf from Bell’s skate blade during a collision while the pair shared the ice with other skaters preparing for the Worlds short program. Lim had to leave the ice and receive medical treatment for the injury.
Did Bell, a 22-year-old Long Beach resident, deliberately slash Lim, 16, her training partner in Southern California? asked one outlet. Or was it an intentional cutting, as another media organization suggested.
“Does ice skating have another Tonya Harding type scandal on its hands?” screamed one U.S. headline in an exercise in wishful thinking.
Even Inside Edition weighed in.
In between reporting about a man who set up a camera in his work shed in hopes of capturing a glimpse of a ghost and “Kate Middleton Finally Opens Up About How She Felt At the Royal Wedding,” IE asked “Was a Teen Ice Skater Attacked by Her Rival?”
The answer according to the International Skating Union, the sports global governing body, is no.
“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 said in a statement, noting that while the incident was verbally reported to the ISU by the South Korean team leader, “no formal complaint has been received.”
U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement Thursday “The athletes met this morning and good luck wishes were exchanged. Mariah is looking forward to competing tonight in the ladies free skate.”
The ISU ruling, however, did not prevent angry Lim fans from threatening Bell on social media.
The controversy was fueled by statements by the agency that represents Lim alleging that the collision was “premeditated” and that Bell has been “bullying” her training partner for months.
Rafael Arutyunyan, who coaches both women, was quick to dismiss the allegations.
“The thing is that Mariah’s program includes an element where she lays her leg back and stretches it. This is how it happened that she touched Lim’s leg with her blade. Of course it was not deliberately,” Arutyunyan told reporters.
“There has never been any confrontation between them at training sessions. And by the way, look at Mariah. Do you think this girl could offend anybody? I can’t even imagine who decided to write such kind of things about her.”
Collisions between skaters are not uncommon even at major international competitions.
Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan collided with China’s Yan Han during a warm-up before a 2014 ISU Grand Prix event in Shanghai, both men landing face down on the ice, Hanyu’s face and neck bloodied.
Japan’s Midori Ito, the 1989 World champion and the first woman to land a triple-triple and a triple Axel in competition, was sent crashing into the sideboards during a warm-up at the 1991 Worlds after colliding with France’s Laetitia Hubert.
Adam Rippon, Bell’s former training partner and current choreographer, had a head-on collision with China’s Nan Song during a warm-up at the 2012 Cup of China.
Lim appeared fine in the Worlds short program Wednesday, posting a personal best score of 72.91 that put her into fifth place, one spot ahead of Bell at 71.26.