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South Korea Olympic team urges IOC to probe tearful fencer's defeat, seeks official apology

08/03/2012 01:10 EDT | Updated 10/03/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Tearful fencer Shin A-lam's defeat that helped cost her an Olympic medal should be investigated by the IOC, the South Korea team said Friday.

Shin lost against defending champion Britta Heidemann in the semifinals Monday, in a chaotic end to a match she thought she had won. A final second of extra time was put back on the clock, allowing the German fencer to make a winning attack. Shin later lost the bronze medal match.

Pictures of her crying as she sat beside the fencing mat awaiting an appeal judgment have been among the most powerful at the London Games.

South Korea Olympic officials acknowledged that the chance of the International Olympic Committee issuing her with an extra medal was "very low."

Still, they resolved to "make a formal request to the IOC to investigate this case and also we request an apology from the FIE (fencing's governing body)," Korean Olympic official Choi Jong-jun said in translated comments published by the Olympic News Service.

The apology was necessary "in order to restore the pride of the Korean people and also try to reinstate the honour of the athlete Shin," Choi said.

The IOC said in a statement that the South Korean Olympic body "is seeking clarification on this matter and has asked the IOC to assist in this endeavour."

The FIE declined comment to the Associated Press, though has previously accepted that timing methods need to be modernized.

"It is hoped that the next generation of fencing equipment will show milliseconds which will allow fencers and audiences to see and understand the precise time remaining," the fencing body said in a statement Thursday.

Korean Olympic official Choi said the FIE had accepted that "mechanical" equipment errors were made. Match officials were not blamed.

"This is not a case of an outright faulty decision made by the referee," he said. "In the history of fencing this type of accident that deals with the millisecond has not happened."

The team ruled out an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport because it was likely to fail. The court does not alter results by overturning "field of play" decisions.

Choi said the fencing incident could not be compared to a judging error at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics — where a second gold medal was later awarded in a figure skating event — because "in that case it was found out that the referee was bribed."

"The rules and regulations of FIE were not sufficient and the athlete (Shin) was unfairly disadvantaged because of the shortcomings," Choi said. "However, in this case the decision was made on site, so awarding a joint medal to the athlete or changing the colour of the medal would be very difficult."

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