Olympic fencer sobs for half-hour after loss
(CBS News) LONDON - A young fencer from South Korea displayed the agony of defeat after a controversial ruling at the 2012 Olympics. She was reduced to tears.
It was truly a battle of Olympic proportions Monday - the semi-final "epee" fencing match between Germany's Britta Heidemann and South Korea's Shin A-lam.
The two were locked in a five-to-five tie as they entered an extra minute of play, the fencing equivalent of "sudden death."
With just one second left, Shin was set to win the match if she could just avoid getting hit. But that second seemed to last forever. The official clock was stopped and re-started four times, as each player kept hitting each other simultaneously. But time never ran out.
Coach Eric Hansen, a former national champion who's now with the Los Angeles Fencing Center, points out that fencing "is probably one of the most technical sports in existence. ... There's an implement in your hand. And you can get that implement to move extremely quickly. ... Distance, timing, coordination are extremely important. ... You can absolutely score touches in less than one second."
Finally, Germany's Heidemann scored what she thought was the winning hit.
But her celebration was short-lived. Shin appealed the decision, arguing time should have been up.
The rules say if you leave the mat, you forfeit. So Shin waited almost half-an-hour for a final ruling. It was not in her favor.
"Emotions are involved. And that's part of the psychology of the sport - how you control your emotions or use them to your advantage," Hansen explains. "You can kind of understand how you put your whole life's work into something and to have a decision from a referee take it away from you, or what you might perceive as a referee taking it away from you, you can understand why somebody would get emotional and break down."
Inconsolable, Shin remained on the mat for at least another half-hour in protest, crying in front of the crowd of 8,000 spectators.
"She was just trying to win the bout, that's all," Hansen says. "They were both trying to win. So emotions are definitely involved."
Shin said, "I think it's unfair. I should have won."
Eventually, she was persuaded to leave, led away by officials.
She'd lost the gold but returned shortly thereafter to compete for the bronze. Still shaken, she lost that competition, as well.
Shin's Olympic dreams aren't quite over yet. She's participating in a team event Saturday in which she just might face her German rival again.
And the International Fencing Federation is offering Shin a "special medal" to commend her sportsmanship.
To see Bigad Shaban's report, click on the video in the player above.
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