On March 20, 16-year-old South Korean figure skater Lim Eun-Soo’s calf was allegedly slashed by the skate of 22-year-old American skater Mariah Bell. The incident occurred during warm-ups ahead of the women’s short program at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Japan. Lim received medical attention, and then went on to score her personal best.
Afterward, the management agency representing Lim publicly accused Bell of intentionally harming her rival, an incident that seemed to many to recall the infamous Tanya Harding–Nancy Kerrigan scandal. However, the next day, the International Skating Union issued a statement in response to All That Sports’s allegation, stating that “there is no evidence” that the slashing was deliberate.
Now, Bell has spoken out for the first time since the incident, saying in a Instagram caption that she “meant absolutely no harm,” per E! News. She also wrote of the “hateful and disturbing” comments she has received. So what’s going on? Here’s what we know.
Bell reportedly collided with Lim during warm-ups at the World Championships, and her ice skate allegedly slashed Lim’s calf.
Before the women’s short program on Wednesday, March 20, 22-year-old American skater Mariah Bell allegedly collided into, and her skate subsequently cut, 16-year-old Lim Eun-Soo of South Korea. Lim’s agency, All That Sports, told Agence-France Presse that it believes the collision was intentional, since Bell allegedly ran into Lim from behind while Lim was skating near the wall and away from other skaters. The agency said, per the Washington Post:
“Lim was slowly skating on the edge of the rink after completing her turn. Mariah Bell, who was scheduled to rehearse after Lim, suddenly kicked and stabbed Lim’s calf with her skate blades,” an All That Sports official told Yonhap News. “Mariah Bell didn’t apologize to Lim Eun-soo after the incident and instead continued to rehearse for her routine.”
Bell and Lim reportedly train together under the same coach, Rafael Arutyunyan, in Los Angeles, and the agency also claimed that Bell had been “bullying Lim for months.” Despite the injury, however, Lim reached a personal best during the competition and snagged fifth place, while Bell came in sixth.
The agency representing Lim, as well as her parents, reportedly requested an official investigation into what occurred.
All That Sports reportedly urged the Korean Skating Union to lodge a complaint about the incident with the International Skating Union, and Lim’s parents reportedly referred the incident to the ISU as well. By the following morning EST, an official with the Korean Skating Union said, per the Washington Post, “At this stage, we can’t conclude Bell caused the injury on purpose. It is hard to tell just by watching the video footage of the incident.”
As news of the allegation began to spread, many took to social media to share their thoughts about the incident.
As happens, many people took to social media to discuss the allegations after they surfaced. Some people voiced concern over the veracity of the reports and urged others to reserve judgment until the investigation was completed. Olympic gold medalist Adam Rippon also commented in response to a Twitter user, stating in part, “I’ve been to the rink multiple times and NO ONE has been bullying anyone. Stop creating shit and spreading rumors. What happened in the warm up was an accident. Don’t distract both Eunsoo and Mariah from the competition.”
The girls’ shared coach also reportedly stated that the incident was an accident.
In an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Rafael Arutyunyan reportedly said that he did not think the slashing was intentional. The article is in Russian, but a translation shows that he said Bell was pulling her leg back as part of her routine and her skate blade unintentionally struck Lim.
Officials have said that, given the evidence available at the moment, it doesn’t appear the slashing was intentional.
After the story began to go viral, the Korea Skating Union reportedly stated that the U.S. figure skating team apologized for the incident, and that Lim accepted the apology. Per the Yonhap News Agency, the U.S. team also reportedly said that Bell did not apologize because music began to play while they were both on the ice. The International Skating Union also said in a statement that while the incident was verbally reported, there was no formal complaint. The ISU said that given the evidence available, including video, there is no proof that Bell “intended any harm” to Lim. The ISU also stated, “The ISU met with delegates from both USA and Korea and urged both parties to find an amicable solution. The ISU maintains that this remains the appropriate approach.”
Bell wrote on Instagram that she meant “absolutely no harm,” and that she has received “hateful and disturbing” comments since the incident.
Per E! News, Bell addressed what happened on her private Instagram account on Thursday. Bell reportedly stated that she told Lim in Japan that the incident “was very unfortunate and I meant absolutely no harm.” She went on to write, “Our training environment is professional and supportive, and I’ve never changed locker rooms or training times or anything like that.” Bell continued in the caption:
The comments that my friends, family and I received on social media were hateful and disturbing and hopefully this situation raises awareness and causes people to think twice before hitting ‘tweet’ or ‘post.’ I learned a lot about my inner strength last week, and I’m excited to continue to train in the lead up to Beijing in 2022.
This post has been updated.