Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Fencing controversy

South Korean fencer Shin A Lam waits out the Korean protest of her loss

A controversial fencing semifinal bout of the women's individual epee competition was won on a final touch with 1 second remaining and the losing fencer launched an appeal of the decision which eventually cost her the finals.

With time running out in one of the two semifinal matches for the women's individual epee competition, South Korea's Shin A Lam led Germany's Germany's Britta Heidermann by a single point. Officially, Heidermann had just one second to launch an attack and score a touch, which would advance her on to the gold medal match to face the Ukraine's Yana Shemyakina, a lack of time which all but ensured that Shin would advance.

Instead, the timing mechanism on the piste became stuck, giving Heidermann extra time to complete her attack and win the bout, which earned her the spot in the gold medal bout. Officials, unsure what to do without a true, official protocol to follow, eventually decided to award the victory to Heidermann.

As one might expect, Shin and her coaches were enraged with the decision, and launched an immediate appeal. Yet the appeal itself has proved to be incredibly lengthy. After more than 30 minutes of a delay that included the Korean federation having to expedite a payment for the use in the official appeal, Shin's attempt to overturn the result failed, bringing a crushing end to a ridiculously long period marked by piquant discussion between Olympic and Korean officials and occasional announcements trying to explain what was going on to the spectators in the crowd.

Clearly, Shin should have had a chance for the gold medal; if the timing mechanism didn't get stuck, the clock would have run out and she would have advanced. Yet denying Heidermann a shot without some kind of a playoff-style bout might have been equally cruel.

Either way, the fencing tournament somehow ended up with an unfortunate and completely unforeseen loser which will lead to plenty of gripes and arguments going forward from multiple national federations, to be sure.

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