PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Canadian short track speed skater Charles Hamelin said the team had rallied round Kim Boutin after the Olympic women’s 500 meters bronze medalist was subjected to online abuse and threats at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
The 23-year-old had finished fourth in last week’s race but was bumped up to third after home favorite Choi Min-jeong was disqualified from the silver medal position. The two skaters had collided during an incident-packed race.
Boutin was forced to block her social media accounts last week after receiving threats such as: “If I find you, you will die.”
Hamelin said the togetherness of the team had helped Boutin get through it and focus her mind on the remainder of the Olympics.
“Especially after Kim won the medal, that’s where we saw the strength of the team. We all stick together,” said the 33-year-old Hamelin.
“We took her in our arms and tell her everything she needed to hear, make sure she was living that moment with that medal around her neck and not thinking about anything else.
“And make sure that she’s focused on that next step because she had a lot more (races to come).”
South Korea has dominated Olympic short track since it was introduced to the full program in 1992, winning 24 of the 56 golds on offer, and the sport enjoys massive popularity in the country.
Boutin said she had kept away from her social media accounts so she did not see the abuse, but added that she could understand how difficult it was for Koreans to see their favorite lose a silver medal during a home Olympics.
“Just the look of the Korean Choi Min-jeong, she (looked) at me and, well, I feel the sorrow in her eyes. I feel it in all Korea eyes,” she said.
While the controversy was hardly the ideal way to begin the Games, Boutin said coming away with three medals meant she could go back to Canada satisfied with her first Olympics.
The Quebec native also won silver in the 1,000m and a bronze in the 1,500m.
“My goal for this Games was to learn a lot. It was a success because I have passed some experiences – bad and good,” she added. “I feel I grew up.”
(Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)