Figure skater Mariah Bell has spoken out for the first time after being accused of deliberately cutting the leg of a South Korean competitor with her skate, saying she meant "absolutely no harm."
In an incident that conjured images of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, Bell, 22, was accused by the South Korean national team of deliberately slashing the leg of skater Lim Eun-soo, 16, with her skate during a warmup last week ahead of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Japan.
Bell addressed the claims in a post on her private Instagram account, which was obtained by TODAY.
"As I told Eunsoo in Japan, the incident at practice was very unfortunate and I meant absolutely no harm,'' she wrote.
Lim went on to place 10th in the World Championships, while Bell finished ninth.
Bell and Lim share the same trainer, and the U.S. skater said there has been no friction between them since the incident.
"Our training environment is professional and supportive, and I've never changed locker rooms or training times or anything like that,'' Bell wrote.
Bell was in the middle of a practice session for her short program on March 20 when she clearly clipped Lim, according to video shot from the stands and obtained by NBC News. Lim can be seen reaching down to grab her leg in pain.
The head of the South Korean skating team claimed Bell's action was intentional, but the International Skating Union rejected the claim, saying it found no evidence that Bell meant any harm to Lim.
In a Korean news article, Lim's agency also claimed Bell had been bullying Lim for months, which was disputed by fellow U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon.
"I've been to the rink multiple times and NO ONE has been bullying anyone," Rippon said in a tweet. "What happened in the warm up was an accident. Don’t distract both Eunsoo and Mariah from the competition."
Bell also opened up about the backlash she received in the wake of the accusations.
"The comments that my friends, family and I received on social media were hateful and disturbing and hopefully this situation raises awareness and causes people to think twice before hitting 'tweet' or 'post,''' she wrote. "I learned a lot about my inner strength last week, and I'm excited to continue to train in the lead up to Beijing in 2022."