Bullying scandal hits South Korean women's speed skating team

South Korea women's curling

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The furore over the two South Korean speed skaters who blamed a team-mate for their failure to reach the semi-finals of the women's team pursuit at the Pyeongchang Olympics reached fever pitch, with a petition calling for their disbarment gathering over 530,000 signatures yesterday.

The pair were forced to an extra end after Korean skip Kim just overhit her attempt to clear Japan's stone from the house.

When Noh fell behind at a speed-skating team qualifier earlier this week, her teammates skated on without her.

"I wasn't interested in either curling or the Olympics but after watching curling games at home, I've started to like them, they're so cool", said the 31-year-old.

Noh sat on a bench sobbing as the team's Dutch coach, Bob de Jong, tried to console her. Kim and Park turned their backs on her before leaving separately.

Japan (4-5) missed their chance to get into the tie-break mix when they were humbled 10-4 by South Korea while Canada closed out with an 8-3 win over last place Denmark (2-7).

Almost 600,000 signatures were on an online petition to South Korea's presidential office calling for skaters Kim and Park to be expelled from the games.

In team pursuit, three skaters typically move together in unison, taking turns at the front and while teammates try to keep opponents from moving up.

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The pair's act sparked a furious reaction from the public who accused them of bullying, with The Korea Herald reporting that 220,000 fans had signed a petition asking the presidential office to expel Park and Kim from the South Korean Olympic team.

"It's fascinating to be on the Olympic stage", said the rink's lead Kim Yeong-mi ahead of the Games.

Skater Choi Dabin, who earlier this month told reporters her mother - who passed away past year - was "watching her performance from Heaven", finished seventh out of 24 for her haunting, clean skate to "Doctor Zhivago".

Kim has already lost a sponsorship deal because of the furor.

"I'm really happy", Takagi said, "that I can end the Olympics in such a wonderful way".

She was also forced to shut down her social media profiles as a result of the backlash, said Yonhap. In an editorial, the newspaper referred to an interview Noh gave last month in which she called out divisions within the team, including the use of separate training facilities.

Starting on the outside she was always up against it, and after the collision with Shim she ended her race - and her Olympics - unceremoniously on her backside.

Noh had been hoping to win gold to honour her late brother, former short track world champion Jin-kyu, who died of bone cancer in 2016.

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