The World Figure Skating Championships in Japan has been rocked by claims that US star Mariah Bell deliberately injured rival and training partner Lim Eun-soo of South Korea during a training session.
READ MORE: ‘You think it’s decent to strip off?’ Russian skater in frosty Tuktamysheva row over risqué routine
The controversial incident took place on Wednesday during the official rehearsal of the ladies’ short program. Bell, 22, who was scheduled to skate right after Lim, 16, approached her Korean counterpart and allegedly cut her left leg with a skate blade.
Lim was forced to leave the rink to receive emergency treatment from medical staff following the controversial episode, which could have led to her withdrawal from the tournament.
The International Skating Union (ISU) is set to investigate the incident after South Korea’s figure skating body lodged an official complaint, claiming the US athlete had deliberately kicked Lim with her skate.
According to Lim's management agency All That Sports, Lim was skating close to the edge of the rink when Bell came from behind and suddenly kicked and stabbed her, cutting the skater’s left leg.
The agency also claimed that Bell had been continuously bullying Lim during preparation for the global tournament as both athletes have been training in Los Angeles under the same coach, Rafael Arutyunyan.
Despite the injury, Lim posted a season best of 72.91 points the short program, a result which put her in fifth place. Bell is ranked sixth after the short program, more than a point behind Lim.
The incident triggered debate on social media, with many figure skating fans drawing parallels between Bell and Tonya Harding – who was infamously accused of hiring an attacker to injure her teammate and main rival Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 Winter Games.
mariah bell and tonya harding would be great friends considering they both enjoy injuring other athletes so that they won’t be able to compete. ?
— Hannah (@hanalivinglife) March 20, 2019
Mariah Bell is the next Tonya Harding for what she did to Eunsoo Lim. She is trash. #WorldFigure
— ?생일축하? 민슈가? (@CamiMang) March 20, 2019
If Bell is found guilty she could be disqualified by the ISU for unsportsmanlike behavior.