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That South Korean Fencer Got Screwed Because… The Timekeeper Was A 15-Year-Old Volunteer? (UPDATE)

  • Matt Rudnitsky

UPDATE: According to an email received from the London Olympics’ organizing committee, “We do not have 15 year old time keepers. All time keepers are specialists who act under the direction of a referee.” So… there’s that.

The original post is below.

By now, you probably already know how South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam got screwed out of a medal at the 2012 London Olympics. If not, know that it was because of an inexplicable timing error. Well, a timing error that seemed inexplicable until this detail emerged:

The Korean team believes the situation resulted from poor management by the referee and timekeeper. Kim Chang-gon, an FIE referee, said, “I checked after the game that it was a 15-year-old British volunteer girl who was doing the timekeeping.”

So, yeah, “a 15-year-old British volunteer girl” was in charge of a task that determined who got a shot at an Olympic gold medal. Brilliant staffing, here. When I was 15, I didn’t even know how to tell time.

The Chosun Ilbo expanded on the bullshittiness.

In fencing, the timekeeper stops and starts the clock when the referee makes the “allez (go)” and “halt (stop)” sign. When there is a hit, the clock is stopped automatically by an electronic device.

An experienced timekeeper would press the button at the same time as referee’s hand sign, but inexperienced timekeepers sometimes press the button too early or too late.

Austrian referee Barbara Csar turned the clock back to one second when it lapsed to zero after the end of the second out of three plays that took place with one second remaining. It remains unclear why.

Kim said, “It’s possible that the referee did it because she thought the timekeeper had pressed the button before she started the second play.”

The Korean delegation protested, and when that was not accepted, they submitted an official written appeal. But after an hour of deliberation, the FIE gave the same response, saying that there is nothing it could do because the rules dictates that the referee decides the time by looking at the clock on the screen.

So, fencing rules are stupid. But this could have all been prevented if someone experienced was doing an important job at the OLYMPICS. Yes, a novel concept, Mr. Timekeeper Hirer.

Imagine if a 15-year-old was in charge of keeping time at the Super Bowl? He/she’d probably be killed if there was even a whiff of a mistake being made. Fortunately, nobody cares enough about fencing to lash out at this poor girl. Instead, we can properly direct our anger at whomever the idiot was that thought it was a good idea to hire her.

Shin got a “special” consolation medal from the International Fencing Federation (FIE), but c’mon; it’s not the same. They might as well have given her a Burger King birthday crown. I mean, at least people have heard of those. And they’ll respect the shit out of you for wearing that majestic diadem.

[The Chosun Ilbo]


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