South Korean fencer Shin Lam in tears amid major Olympics controversy
Published 31/07/2012 | 10:36
South Korean fencer Shin Lam was in floods of tears at the ExCeL arena last night after arguably the biggest controversy of the Olympics so far.
The 25-year-old thought she was through to the final of the women's epee when, to her horror and that of her coach Shim Jaesung, the clock was reset from zero to one second.
And when the action resumed German Britta Heidemann, gold medallist four years ago, scored a do-or-die hit that appeared to have given her a place in the final against Ukraine's Yana Shemyakana.
The Korean coach furiously launched an appeal against the decision that had allowed the fight to continue and it was nearly half an hour before it was announced to the crowd - slow-handicapping by this stage - that Heidemann's win stood.
Shin broke down in tears for the second time and while her opponent celebrated she remained on the piste.
The crowd was then told she was doing that because a formal appeal was being considered and if she left the field of play it would be deemed an acceptance of defeat.
By then the bronze medal match should have started, but that faced a lengthy delay - as did the final to follow.
Shin only needed to draw the contest in sudden death because she had been given priority - that is, the onus was on Heidemann to score in the extra minute of sudden death.
The crowd could hardly believe their ears just before 7.40pm - nearly an hour after the incident - when they were told part of the rules was that the Koreans had to lodge money for the appeal to be valid.
Still Shin remained on the piste, bringing back memories of fellow Korean Byun Jong-il's sit-down strike during the boxing in Seoul in 1988.
The big difference was that Shin was an innocent in all this and just doing what she was told.
Just before 8pm an official came onto the piste to encourage Shin to leave, but she was not happy to go just yet.
Another official came on to assist as she dissolved into tears again. Now there were whistles and boos from the crowd as she was led off, although the decision had still not been announced.
As she was hugged by her coach the announcer asked for respect to be shown to the athletes and judges - and also a big round of applause for the world number 12 as she finally left.
The coach left as well, still clearly furious about an outcome that the fans had yet to be told about.
The final should have been staged by then, but the crowd was not able to see what happened next. The spectators had no idea what was going on back stage.
The final decision was that Shin had lost the semi-final and would be in the bronze medal match.
Amazingly it began a few minutes later, the Korean coach saying: "We will try to clam her down, even though she is to be extremely stressed".
Shin somehow summoned up the concentration to take an early 4-2 lead over world number one Sun Yujie - every hit being roared by her new-found fans.
With the last three-minute period to go it was 9-9, but Shin's agony became complete when Sun took the bronze 15-11 and she was left empty-handed from a night she and the audience will never forget.