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Crying shame: L Sarita Devi spills tears after controversial decision

Sarita Devi spills tears after controversial decision in favour of South Korean denies Indian a shot at gold.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Incheon |
Updated: October 1, 2014 11:13:59 am
Sarita Devi was knocked out in the semifinals of the 60kg category (Source: PTI) Sarita Devi was knocked out in the semifinals of the 60kg category (Source: PTI)

Indian boxer Sarita Devi (60 kg) is contemplating returning the bronze medal she won on Tuesday after being declared the loser of her lightweight semifinal against South Korea’s Jina Park, a controversial decision that saw the Indian team lodge a protest, which the International Boxing Association (AIBA) rejected.

Sarita appeared to be cruising into the final after dominating her bout, but the judges from Tunisia, Italy and Poland awarded the bout to her Korean opponent in an unanimous 3-0 decision.

Shocked by the verdict, Sarita sarcastically applauded the referees before breaking into tears. Her’s wasn’t the only contentious decision taken by the judges on Tuesday. Another Indian boxer, Devendro Singh, and a Mongolian pugilist lost their quarterfinal bouts to Korean boxers amidst loud protests and boos.

Sarita, who won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, dominated her fight and when Park was awarded the win, it sparked a melee, which prompted police action. “I don’t accept this decision. It’s wrong,” a distraught Sarita said even as her husband Thoiba Singh confronted the match officials screaming: “You’ve killed boxing!”

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Thoiba launched an expletive-laden tirade and tangled with security officials and organising committee official Jung Jaek Yu. He grabbed his wife’s arm and tried to lead her in protest back to the ring, where the next bout was already under way, resulting in scuffles as their path was blocked by security.

“Don’t tell me it’s OK! This is not OK! What the hell is going on here!” he shouted at the top of his voice. “She won this fight and you give it to Korea,” he yelled. “We will accept the medal (bronze) at the ceremony but are planning to return it as a mark of protest,” Thoiba said. Police were called into the arena and stood in a cordon between the press area and the ring.

“For me, there was only one winner and that was Sarita,” Vietnamese boxer Bang Li Thi, who had lost to Mary Kom earlier in the day, said.

Even an Olympic Council of Asia vice-president conceded that the result didn’t seem fair. “It is a bit shameful for us as hosts. There should be fair competition,” said Kim Haryun, a Korean journalist who works for a Japanese broadcaster.

Moments later, Mongolia’s bantamweight boxer Tugstsogt Nyambayar lost a contentious bout against South Korea’s Ham Sang-Myeong, which prompted a brief sit-in protest. The Mongolian supporters hurled empty plastic bottles at the judges and Nyambayar was given a standing ovation as he left the arena.

Both India and Mongolia lodged official complaints by paying $500. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) rules do not allow a boxer to appeal a judge’s verdict but the Indian team said they did not agree with the decisions taken by the referee inside the ring and demanded a review.

But the AIBA rejected the protest saying that the Indian team had essentially contested the judging. “After review of your protest for the bout #143 between India and Korea, the protest was about judging the bout. Following our article 8.4 in AOB Competition Rules, you cannot protest against judges decisions. Therefore, we would like to inform you that your protest is now rejected,” AIBA supervisor David Francis wrote in his protest evaluation notice to the Indian team.

The episode took the gloss off a successful day for India in boxing. Five-time world champion Mary Kom (51 kg) entered the final of her category. Vikas Krishan (75 kg) entered the semifinals along with Satish Kumar (+91 kg), assuring at least two bronze medals.

Further controversy

Even before the dust could settle over this storm, another controversial decision involving Indian and Korean boxers took everyone by surprise. Devendro, one of India’s leading contenders for gold, stood inside the ring in disbelief after he was declared a 3-0 loser despite seeming to enjoy an upper hand over Jonghun Shin. Even the Korean boxer conceded that he wasn’t dominating the tie. “I have an injury near my eye and I was trying to protect it. I didn’t feel I was dominating, but I am happy to qualify for the final,” he told via a translator.

For many inside the arena, the goings-on were a reminder of the unpleasant events that occurred 16 years ago, when Si Hun Park was controversially declared winner in the gold medal match of the 1988 Seoul Olympics against America’s Roy Jones Junior. Incidentally, Park is the coach of the Korean boxing team competing at the Incheon Games and stood in his boxer’s corner during those bouts.

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