Gold Medal or Bust

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Short track speed skater Kim Dong-Sung of South Korea had just finished first in the 1,500-m race, only an hour after the Korean women's relay team won gold in the 3,000-m on the same ice. It looked like a great night for South Korea. A jubilant Kim grabbed a Korean flag and began a victory lap. But his celebration was stopped short when the referees announced that the Korean skater was disqualified for "cross-tracking," claiming that he had blocked American Apolo Anton Ohno when he attempted to pass Kim in the final few meters of the race. In fury, Kim tossed down the flag, kicked a black rubber lane marker and left the ice in a huff.

The decision was clearly a judgment call. The referees said Kim moved side to side, illegally impeding Ohno. Disqualification is common in short track speed skating, but Kim fans, who seem to include the entire population of South Korea, claimed that Ohno was acting when he pulled up near the finish when he could not pass. Besides, asks Park Sung In, chief of mission for the Korean Olympic delegation, "Should the leading athlete make way for the passing one?"

The Koreans demanded that the referees' ruling be reversed and the gold medal be given to Kim, "the athlete who finished first." They even announced plans to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City against the referees.

Equally contentious were the Russians, who threatened to boycott the closing ceremony. Russian Olympic Committee president Leonid Tyagachev claimed that Olympic officials had treated Larissa Lazutina, a nine-time Olympic medal winner, unfairly when they disqualified her from the 4x5-km cross-country relay after she failed a blood test administered just prior to competition. The Russians, who have had a poor showing at the Games, also complained that their hockey team was heavily penalized and that their skaters, including silver medalist Irina Slutskaya, were harshly judged. In Moscow, politicians, reflecting public anger, expressed outrage. Sports Minister Pavel Rozhkov demanded both apologies and action from the International Olympic Committee. "Otherwise, the Russian team pulls out. We can set up games of our own."