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Olympic North Korean speed skater appears to try and trip his Japanese rival mid-race

Laura Vitto

In rude Olympic news, a North Korean speed skater received a penalty during his race for appearing to attempt to throw off one of his fellow skaters. 

Speed skater Jong Kwang-Bom fell – twice! – during the men's 500 meters heat on Tuesday in Pyeongchang. Jong's first fall came within seconds of starting, prompting the judges to pause the race and restart. On the second round, the skater fell again.

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Speed skater Jong Kwang Bom of North Korea falls at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Image: Getty Images

Both times, he appeared to reach out toward Japanese skater Keita Watanabe, first toward Watanabe's skate and second as the pair lightly collided while rounding a curve. NBC Olympics has video of the falls right here.

But for what it's worth, Watanabe is willing to give Jong the benefit of the doubt in this scenario. Speaking to Yahoo Sports  – which erroneously identified him as skater Ryosuke Sakazume – Watanabe said he doesn't believe Jong was purposefully reaching for his skate, and noted that collisions are par for the course in speed skating.

"I believe it was unintentional," he said. "His hand happened to be by my skate as he fell down." 

This was Jong's first and only Olympics event. Watanabe and Huang Daeheon on Korea went on to qualify.

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