Failing to do so meant that a chance to win a gold medal was taken away earlier this week.
In the women’s individual epee competition (that’s fencing lingo – yes, I’m learning as we go as well), South Korean Shin A Lam was leading her German counterpart Britta Heiderman late in one of the semifinal matches. Shin held a one-point lead with one second left – in order for Heiderman to win and advance she’d have to launch an attack and score a touch with that little time. Shin was all but guaranteed a chance to advance to the gold medal match.
But then scoring technology failed. The timing mechanism on the piste (again, more fencing lingo!) got stuck and somehow Heiderman was granted extra time to complete her mission – attack and score a touch. Which she did.
Surely the judges would look past that and realize the timer had failed, right?
“Officials, unsure what to do without a true, official protocol to follow, eventually decided to award the victory to Heidermann.”
And here’s where the situation becomes an emotional story fitting for NBC’s coverage. Shin and her coaches launched an immediate appeal of the decision that proved lengthy because a payment for the appeal had to be expedited from the Korean federation, but was also made equally torturous for Shin because there’s a special appeals rule that mandates Shin not leave the playing surface for the duration of the appeal. Shin is forced to remain in full view of the spectators while bawling her eyes out.
Somehow, the attempt to overturn the poor judgment failed.
So by implementing technology without having an official protocol for handling (just about) every opportunity for breakdown, the fencing officials (and whatever governing body they report to, whether it’s the Olympics or a worldwide fencing organization) denied the rightful winner of a match a chance to compete for a gold medal. Shin was let down by a technology failure, a lack of proper sporting protocol, and an appeal that somehow fell short.
“There was little consolation for that result for Shin, particularly after she quite rightfully should have been fencing for a gold medal, a position which would have guaranteed her at least a silver.”
This was an unfortunate ending to an event that could have (and should have) been made right, but also could have been prevented if the officials had an official protocol to follow.