GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Kim Bo-reum won silver in the new women's mass start speed skating on Saturday at the PyeongChang Winter Games, triumphing over a recent bullying scandal.
In the event's finals in the Gangneung Oval, Kim finished second among 16 skaters, following Nana Takagi of Japan. Irene Schouten of the Netherlands won bronze.
The mass start is an Olympic competition for the first time at this year's games.
Kim made a superb final spurt over the home stretch of the 16-lap race. For most of the race she skated towards the tail of the 16-woman pack, but sprinted over the final circuit to pass all skaters and finish runner-up.
She has been at the center of a bullying scandal that broke out after female speed skaters finished last in the women's team pursuit on Monday.
In the event's quarterfinals, the female team of Kim, Noh Seon-yeong and Park Ji-woo showed an apparent lack of teamwork, leaving Noh far behind as the other two skaters finished.
She has been under fire for alienating her teammate, and her after-race interview that blamed Noh for the poor result. Some 600,000 South Koreans signed a petition calling for Kim to be disqualified from the national team.
Two days later, in the team pursuit classification match against Poland, the home audience remained silent when Kim was introduced on the track.
On Saturday, however, her mass start race changed the atmosphere of the Oval. Her last minute spurt received loud cheers and whistles from the home crowd.
After finishing the mass start, Kim burst into tears and knelt down on the ice in a full bow to the Korean fans.
"I have nothing to say other than that I am sorry," Kim told reporters through tears at the mixed zone after winning silver.
Kim, who looked extremely depressed, said in a weak voice that she could not contact anyone, including her mother, after the incident broke out.
The silver medalist said she wanted to express her sincerest apology to the public, and that her sense of contrition motivated her to bow to the spectators.
"I am sorry for causing such trouble. I do not have any other words in my mind, but to say that I am sorry," Kim said again.
Park, who also ran in the controversial team pursuit, failed to reach finals at the mass start by standing in ninth place in her group.