Controversial reversal robs judoka
Korean judoka Cho Jun-ho won a bronze medal in the men’s under-66-kilogram class judo event on Sunday after the judges’ controversial reversal knocked him out of the running for gold and silver.
During a quarterfinal bout with world champion Nasashi Ebinuma of Japan, judges had to make a final call after five minutes of regulation and three minutes of overtime. The referee and two side judges raised blue flags, signaling a victory for Cho.
But with a largely Japanese crowd disagreeing with the call and jeering the judges’ decision, the International Judo Federation’s refereeing commission intervened. Juan Carlos Barcos, the referees director, convened the judges and exchanged words.
The three referees then went back onto the mat and this time raised white flags, signaling a victory for Ebinuma.
Shocked by the overturned decision, Cho didn’t leave the mat as his manager Chung Hoon looked on furiously.
For the first time at the Olympics, video replay technology is being used to review contentious scoring decisions. But this was the first time judges have been overruled on a flag decision, according to the IJF.
The decision was even a surprise to Ebinuma, who was defeated by Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili in the semifinals and eventually settled for a bronze medal.
“I thought I was going to lose but there was all this support from the audience,” Ebinuma later told reporters at the arena.
“I’m feeling a bit bad for the Korean [Cho].”
The federation’s General Secretary Jean-Luc Rouge later told AFP that the referees weren’t told to change their minds, but were merely reminded of an attack by Ebinuma that could have scored in overtime.
Chung said after the fight that the IJF’s explanation doesn’t make any sense and should not have occurred.
“For technical rulings, we see things like yuko turning to koka, but I have never seen an overturned decision like that,” Chung said.
“We appealed to the IJF right away, but since the winner of the gold medal is already announced, we are not expecting a re-ruling of the decision.”
The first-time Olympian salvaged the outing with a bronze medal through the repechage after beating Sugoi Uriate of Spain.
The 23-year-old went scoreless against Uriate after five minutes of regulation and went on to sudden-death overtime.
But with Uriate receiving shido for his false attacking attempt and Cho aggressively moving throughout the bout, the Korean was able to draw a unanimous decision from judges, which this time was not second-guessed.
Cho thanked people for their support in his journey to the bronze medal. The world’s No. 8 ranked judoka injured a ligament in his right elbow during the quarterfinal bout, but overcame the pain to win his first medal in the Olympics.
He and manager Chung burst into tears when they came off from the mat after the bronze medal fight.
“After the quarterfinal decision, I felt I was robbed of something,” Cho said.
“I just made my mind up to put my best effort forward in the remaining rounds and that led to a good result.
“Since I got the bronze medal in my first Olympic action, I want to get a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.”
By Joo Kyung-don [firstname.lastname@example.org]