The Asian Games have been full of thrilling and unpredictable moments, but one South Korean skater’s premature celebration might cost his team a gold medal. The anchor of the men’s roller skating relay team at Qintang Roller Sports Centre eased up and raised his arms as he approached the finish, believing that his team had already secured victory. However, Taiwan’s Huang Yu-Lin lunged across the line to win the race by 0.01 seconds.
The moment went viral after being posted on social media by famous Korean hip-hop artist Kero One, who added his music to the clip; in the days since, it has been viewed more than 4.5 million times. While the outcome of this match-up was disappointing for South Korea, the incident serves as a reminder that it’s never over until you cross the finish line.
As a result, the last-placed South Korean team received a silver medal, while the Chinese Taipei squad won the gold. This is the second time the Chinese Taipei women’s team has won gold at the Asian Games, having also done so in 2009.
In addition to being a lesson in staying focused until the end, this roller skating showdown is another reminder of respecting fellow competitors. Especially in a sport like roller skating, where it is common to hear of stories of rivals feuding, this kind of behavior can have disastrous results.
The story of the South Korean team’s failure to retain its title is a tragic example of how even the most experienced athletes can sometimes lose their focus and make mistakes. The South Korean anchor, Zheng Zheyuan, celebrated before he crossed the finishing line in the 3,000-meter relay final. His teammate, Choi Yin-kyo, was overtaken by the Chinese Taipei team, costing them the gold medal and preventing them from receiving a lifetime salary.
The infamous mistake by Zheng Zheyuan was only the latest in a series of mishaps at the Asian Games this year. The first day of competitions at Hangzhou’s Qintang Roller Sports Centre was filled with blunders and embarrassing moments for the host nation.
Fortunately, South Korea rebounded from its rough start and won two bronze medals in the Kurash event and the men’s field hockey semifinal. They also clinched a quarterfinal spot in the men’s basketball by beating Bahrain 88-73. Despite their early missteps, the Koreans are still ahead of traditional powerhouse China with 131 total medals. The Chinese are close behind, though, with 257 medals. Click here for more breaking news from the Asian Games—feature image by Hyojoo Lee. Hyojoo is a longboarder and writer based in Seoul. She frequently trips to Europe and Asia to film videos, promote skating equipment, and attend events. She has also written for various online publications, including The New York Times. She has previously lived in Berlin, Barcelona, and Taiwan.