South Korea’s top Olympic official said a timing error cost one of his team’s fencers a silver medal and a shot at gold, ruining four years of preparation for the London Games. The international fencing federation today called the complaint groundless.
Britta Heidemann of Germany beat South Korea’s Shin A Lam 6-5 by scoring a late hit at the end of one minute of extra time in the women’s individual epee semifinal yesterday.
The hit happened with the timing device stuck on one second, according to Park Yong Sung, president of the South Korean Olympic Committee. The fencing federation said in a statement the hit was within the additional minute.
“It’s a pure mistake, irresponsible,” Park said in an interview at the ExCel Arena. “It’s killing four years of work.”
Heidemann, the defending champion who went on to lose the gold-medal match to Ukraine’s Yana Shemyakina 9-8, told reporters she would have complained about the decision had she been in Shin’s situation.
The 29-year-old German fencer said her victory in the semifinal was still deserved, and that the clock only appeared not to be ticking down because tenths of seconds weren’t shown.
Shin, 25, wept as she sat on the fencing floor for more than one hour while as many as 14 federation officials huddled to discuss the situation and then consider a protest filed by the South Korean team.
Shin was helped off by two officials after she was informed that her appeal had been rejected.
“It’s unfair, I should have won,” Shin said through an interpreter. “I have worked hard for four years.”
She lost the bronze-medal match against China’s Yujie Sun 15-11 a few minutes later.
“I couldn’t concentrate fully,” she said.
Frantisek Janda, president of the European Fencing Federation who wasn’t involved in the ruling, said neither fencer was to blame for the dispute.
“It’s a very, very unhappy situation,” Janda said.
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