Asian Games: Boxer refuses medal

Asian Games: Boxer refuses medal
India's Laishram Sarita Devi reacts after she refused to accept the bronze medal during the women's lightweight (57-60kg) boxing medal ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games at the Seonhak Gymnasium in Incheon on October 1, 2014.

INCHEON - She stood in the middle of the ring, her gloved hands on the ropes as she stared accusingly at the three judges seated at the ringside of Incheon's Seonhak Gymnasium on Tuesday.

The roles have been reversed.

Now, Indian boxer Sarita Devi faces possible disciplinary action for refusing to accept her bronze medal.

She was livid at the judges' decision to award the women's 57-60 kg (lightweight) semi-final bout to home favourite Park Jina.

At the medal presentation on Wednesday, not only did she refuse to wear her bronze medal, but she also proceeded to hang the medal on the South Korean instead.

In the end, Park left the bronze on the podium, with Sarita, 32, refusing to take it with her as she left.

Son Cheon Taik, the Incheon Asian Games Organising Committee (IAGOC) deputy secretary general, said: "There has not been a formal complaint lodged (against Sarita), so the IAGOC cannot take action.

DISSATISFACTION

"But since dissatisfaction has been expressed, I have written a formal letter to the Aiba (International Boxing Association) to ensure that their judges remain fair.

"At the moment, there is no formal decision on whether the game was conducted unfairly. "The OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) has a working group that is investigating the matter, and the athlete may or may not be allowed to keep the medal."

In a statement to Reuters, Aiba supervisor David Francis said that he has asked for the Olympic body to review the incident.

He said: "The whole incident looked like a well-planned scenario by her and her team, and it is regretful to watch a boxer refuse the medal regardless of what happened in the competition.

"In this regard, as the technical delegate, I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic Movement."

While such disputes often arise, with the host nation usually the beneficiary of what is perceived as skewed judging, Son insisted that all efforts have been taken to ensure that it didn't happen in Incheon.

He added that none of the judges was South Korean.

"We wanted to make sure that there's no such thing as home advantage (at these games), and it's unfortunate that (this incident) happened that involved a Korean athlete," he said.

The judges - Tunisian Mohamed Braham, Albino Foti of Italy, and Poland's Maurisz Gorny - all awarded the bout 39-37 in favour of Park, despite the Indian looking to have won the second round, completely dominating the third, and having the upper hand in the fourth and final round.

"We've not just claimed to be fair, we have given much thought and put this into action, by providing education and training for judges (aimed at) creating an environment where those who are defeated accept, and the victors are graceful," added Son, who called Sarita's described actions as "regretful" and unsportsmanlike.

Ironically, Sarita received support from a completely unexpected source - Park.

At a media briefing a day after the bout, the 25-year-old South Korean reportedly said: "I am embarrassed by what has happened. (Sarita) was the winner (on Tuesday)."

Park went on to lose the lightweight final to China's Yin Junhua.

Luu Thi Duyen of Vietnam, the other losing semi-finalist, clinched the automatic bronze medal.


This article was first published on October 3, 2014.
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