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Winter Olympics

With deep regret, we cannot get mad at the Chinese speed-skating judges

February 07, 2022

Before we go any further here, there's a tweet that you need to see:

Now, me? I hate VAR, but I also hate how true this tweet is. I ranked short-track speed skating second on my list of the most watchable winter Olympic disciplines, but that was based on the chaos and crashes and general insanity of things. Yet as I watch more and more of this from Beijing, it's clear that I've forgotten how infested this sport is with video review. Goodman nailed it.

And now, the controversy: On the great big Internet, people are accusing the Chinese of some home cooking when it comes to disqualifications and non-DQs at Capital Indoor Stadium. I'm not going to pretend to know all the rules of short track, but basically, you can't impede another skater on purpose, grab them, yank them, or cut in front by going off the track. All of which made this incident from last night look really bad:

In that clip, you see China's Ziwei Ren seemingly throwing back his Hungarian opponent, Shaolin Sandor Liu, to finish ahead of him in the finals of the men's 1000m to win a gold medal. Ren was not disqualified, and it's easy to see that clip and give in to the sweet, sweet impulse of shouting "THE COMMUNISTS ARE CHEATING!"

Look, I don't begrudge it. From the Soviet Union to East Berlin to China itself, Olympic cheating has a long and storied history, and there's nothing better as an American than getting mad at it. Personally, I'm still mad about the '72 gold medal basketball game when the Soviets robbed us, and I wasn't even alive. Also, this came on the heels of the Americans being disqualified in the short-track mixed-team relay semifinals a couple days ago after eliminating China. That DQ, along with a Russian DQ, brought China back into the mix, and they eventually won gold. After that debacle, the U.S. was giving quotes like this:

"Apparently one of our teammates crossed the blue line, and that made the Chinese team miss their exchange or something like that...It was an interesting call, for sure. But it is what it is."

Considering how sensitive China is about literally everything at these Games—they've already dragged reporters off their sets, and it's no coincidence that American broadcasters are bending over backward to insist that conditions are "fair" at the controversial snow venues—a quote like that from an American is the equivalent of shouting "WE WUZ ROBBED!"

In short, the situation was ripe for anger. And yet, there are mitigating circumstances here. First off, the apparent gold medalist, Hungary's Liu, was going to be DQ'ed anyway for an earlier infraction:

And then, more unfortunately still, here's the full video of the finish:

Clearly, the Chinese skater Ren made a solid move that was going to overtake Liu at the last moment, then Liu (who again, was already DQ'ed) skated into his path and tried to block him out with his arm.

There's nothing worse than having to quell your righteous anger in the face of facts, so we apologize sincerely for the buzzkill. However, we're confident that there will be other things to get mad about as the Olympics rounds into its first full week. In fact, you probably won't have to look far beyond the short-track oval. We'll be ready when it happens, screaming eagle on our shoulder, American flag pants billowing in the wind.