Figure Skater Accused of Purposely Slashing Competitor with Skate But Video Shows 'No Evidence'
An American figure skater has been accused of purposely injuring a South Korean competitor during warm-ups for the World Figure Skating Championships, though officials say there isn’t evidence to back up the claim.
Mariah Bell, 22, was training ahead of the women’s short program in Saitama, Japan, on Wednesday when she allegedly came up behind Lim Eun-soo, 16, and kicked her with her skate blade, causing a cut to her leg, an official with Eun-soo’s agency, All That Sports, told the Yonhap News Agency.
The official claimed to the outlet that the incident was deliberate, as Eun-soo was skating close to the walls away from others when it happened, and that Bell has allegedly been “bullying Lim for months.”
Both skaters train with Rafael Arutunian in Lakewood, California.
The Korean Skating Union said it would file a formal complaint on Eun-soo’s behalf with the International Skating Union (ISU) after a request from All That Sports, according to Agence France-Presse.
The ISU acknowledged the incident in a statement Thursday but said that no formal complaint has been filed, and that there’s no reason to believe the incident was deliberate.
“Based on the evidence at hand in this point in time, which includes a video, there is no evidence that Ms. Bell intended any harm to Ms. Lim,” the statement read. “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.”
The ISU did not comment further to PEOPLE. A spokesman for Bell directed PEOPLE to the ISU statement.
Video of the incident obtained by PEOPLE appears to show it was accidental: Bell is seen beginning her practice routine in the center of the rink and then skating closer to the outside wall, around several other skaters including Eun-soo. As Bell skates past with her right leg extended, her blade strikes Eun-soo, who immediately reacts in pain.
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Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, who previously trained with Bell and choreographed her Wednesday routine to Celine Dion’s “To Love You More,” defended the skater on Twitter, and slammed claims that she was a bully.
“I’ve been to the rink multiple times and NO ONE has been bullying anyone,” he wrote on Twitter. “What happened in the warm up was an accident. Don’t distract both Eun-Soo and Mariah from the competition.”
He later added, “Mariah and Eunsoo are competitive and train all the time together at home. Bullying is something Rafael would never tolerate.”
In an exclusive statement to PEOPLE, Rippon noted that he was not a witness to the incident between Bell and Eun-soo and could not comment specifically on it but that “on-ice collisions are not uncommon in figure skating.”
Referring to Arutunian, the coach all three of them have shared, Rippon said, “I can say that bullying was never tolerated in any of our training sessions … Knowing Mariah as a friend and competitor, I also believe she would never intentionally hurt anyone, it is not in her character.”
Bell and Eun-soo “are both professional figure skaters competing on a world stage and do not need these distractions,” Rippon said. “From what I’ve seen they have not allowed this to interfere with their mission as they both skated their short programs beautifully and with focus and precision. It’s time to move on.”
Arutunian also defended Bell to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, dismissing reports that she and Eun-soo had animosity between them.
“There were no disagreements between these athletes in the training session at all,” he said. “Of course it was not intentional.”
Eun-soo was able to compete Wednesday after seeking treatment and scored 72.91 points, placing her in fifth just ahead of Bell’s sixth.
Representatives for Eun-soo did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.