By Dan Burns
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Chaos reigned as it so often does on the short track oval at the Pyeongchang Games, with roughly a quarter of the field in the eight events drawing penalties that caused disqualifications.
In all, 47 penalties were assessed in the six individual men’s and women’s events and three more in the two team events.
In one event, the men’s 1,000 meters, won by Canada’s Samuel Girard, 10 of the 32 entrants drew penalties over the five rounds of races, including Girard’s team mate Charles Hamelin, who was disqualified for “impeding,” a call that confused him.
“I tried to protect my spot and it wasn’t the thing to do at that moment; that’s what the referee saw in the replay,” Hamelin said.
“I need to see the race because I don’t really understand exactly what happened and what I could have done more. But it is what it is.”
Except when the cause of a crash is obvious, the reason behind a judge’s decision to call a penalty is often not clear and they do not elaborate.
Nathalie Lambert, who won three medals in short track for Canada in Albertville and Lillehammer and is chair of the International Skating Union’s short track technical committee, said that impeding is the catch-all term for infractions.
“I think in the future we will come up with, ‘impeding for whatever reason’, but we just say now, ‘impeding’, which covers everything,” she told the Olympic Information Service.
With such a lack of clarity, skaters have little grounds to appeal a decision against them.
“You can only protest on rules, but not on decisions,” Lambert said. “So in effect, you can’t really protest a decision in short track.”
The sheer number of penalties and the vague reasons offered has given rise to calls by the likes of 2002 Olympic champion Apolo Anton Ohno for greater clarity in the judging.
The ISU has plans for more detailed explanations of penalties at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
In the medal table, South Korea claimed three golds and six medals in total, four for the men and two for the women.
That was up from two golds and five medals overall in Sochi. Five other countries each picked up one gold each.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)