Shin a Lam: Fencing Controversy Exposes Embarrassing Olympic Flaws

Sam R. Quinn@SamQuinn_Senior Analyst IIIJuly 30, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30:  A Lam Shin of Korea sits and waits to hear the outcome of an appeal to overturn the judges ruling on an issue of a delayed clock that caused her to loss her bout against Britta Heidemann of Germany during the Women's Epee Individual Fencing Semifinals on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on July 30, 2012 in London, England. Heidemann scored the final point with one second left on the clock to win against Shin.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Shin A-Lam's failure to advance on from her semifinal match against Germany's Britta Heidemann was through no fault of her own.

The South Korean fencer was tied at five with the defending Olympic gold medalist when the clock struck zero. She would have been awarded the upset victory and a chance at the gold medal if she lasted through the sudden death round due to a "priority ruling," but that was not the case.

According to BBC, "referee Barbara Csar reset the time with one second left after Shin was guilty of an infringement..."

The judges then presumably followed protocol and adjusted the clock accordingly.

Per The Telegraph: "The countdown clock in the 25-year-old’s contest against reigning Olympic gold medallist Britta Heidemann was reset from zero to one second with the scores tied on 5-5."

That seems reasonable enough, and well-warranted if Shin did indeed commit a violation that called for more time to be put on the clock.

What isn't reasonable is this next part (via The Washington Post): "It was during this third “second” that Heidemann scored the winning point, prompting the South Korean appeal."

In case you are having a hard to coming to a conclusion as to what happened, I offer you an explanation. 

Shin allegedly committed a violation just before the buzzer. One second was added to the clock because of said violation. The match then restarted, but the clock stayed at one second. Heidemann took three swipes at Shin, the third of which connected as time expired to give her a buzzer-beating victory

Shin's camp appealed the ruling while the fencer sat in a heap of tears in front of the entire crowd.

My first, and most minor gripe, is that the violation that Shin was alleged to commit has not yet been revealed. It is skeptical at best, especially given that her competition was the defending gold medalist.

Secondly, the appeal absolutely should have been overturned because the clock froze. This shouldn't have been a tough call to make, seeing as the outcome was not affected by a judges ruling that could not be overturned, but rather a technical failure.

The most heinous crime committed by the International Fencing Federation and the International Olympic Committee can be seen in this next excerpt from a Telegraph report:

The crowd was then incredulous when just before 7.40pm - nearly an hour after the incident - that an announcer claimed that in the rules the Koreans had to lodge money for the appeal to be valid.

Jaw-dropping. Obscene. Inherently wrong.

Those are just three things that come to mind upon reading that ludicrous rule. In an amateur competition, the Koreans needed to pay for their appeal to be officially considered.

What kind of operation is being run here?

None of these competitions are about sustaining a productive business or bringing in money. They are about showcasing the greatest talents all over the world across various platforms. Yet the Koreans needed to pay what was essentially a bribe to question a ruling that was questionable at the very least.

We still don't know what the violation was. The clock froze. And the Koreans needed to put forth financial compensation for anybody to care about what they thought.

All of this was occurring while a visibly distraught Shin sat on the piste waiting for an answer. She was told that she couldn't leave the field of play, for if she did, it would have been seen as her accepting defeat.

There's no reason for her to have to sit there in hysterics while her coaches fight for something that was rightfully hers. That is the least of the competition's problems, though.

Much to the chagrin of Shin and her camp, the ruling stood. Heidemann advanced to the gold-medal match, which she would lose. A dejected Shin went on to lose her bronze medal match.

Of course, the IOC hardly cares about what the public believes regarding this specific instance. Nothing will be done because nothing can be done.

Shin's chance at a gold medal is well in the past, and it is all because a cockamamie ruling that was not overturned for reasons unbeknownst to the general public.