Adam Rippon has come to the defence of American figure skater Mariah Bell after she was cleared of intentionally slashing opponent Eunsoo Lim during the warmups for their routine at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships.
Per Jacob Murtagh of the Mirror, the ISU released a statement that said they saw no intent to harm after reviewing video of the incident. A spokesperson for Lim's agency told the Telegraph (h/t Murtagh) they believed the act was deliberate, accusing Bell of kicking out and stabbing the 16-year-old skater. The spokesperson also said Bell didn't apologise for injuring her opponent.
Rippon, a former U.S. Olympian, told People.com's Adam Carlson and Claudia Harmata he believes the slash was accidental while explaining the likely reason Bell didn't apologise:
"On-ice collisions are not uncommon in figure skating. During the final warm-ups, each skater is allowed one run with their music before the actual competition. As skaters, we are trained to complete that run regardless of what happens so that you can rehearse your full routine. It is also an unwritten rule of skating, that whoever's music is playing during the warm-ups, that skater has the right of way on the ice.
"I have worked with Mariah this past year on her choreography and have trained with her for several years. Both Mariah and Lin Eun-Soo's coach, Rafeal, was also my coach. I can say that bullying was never tolerated in any of our training sessions, nor would Rafael allow it to happen during his watch. Knowing Mariah as a friend and competitor, I also believe she would never intentionally hurt anyone, it is not in her character."
World News Tonight shared more on the incident, noting Lim's representatives have said Bell has bullied the younger skater for months:
Rippon rubbished those claims on Twitter (warning: contains profanity):
The ISU agreed with Rippon, releasing a statement in which they cleared Bell of causing intentional harm:
"Based on the evidence at hand at this point in time, which includes a video, there is no evidence that Ms. Bell intended any harm to Ms. Lim.
"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 injury didn't stop Lim from competing at the world championships, as she placed fifth in the short program―one spot ahead of the 22-year-old Bell. The American skater would finish one spot ahead in the overall standings, however, as a superior free skate led to a ninth-placed finish.
Olympic champion Alina Zagitova dominated the competition, posting top marks in both programs to win by nearly 13 points.