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Taiwan taekwondo storm casts cloud over Games

GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - A political storm threatened to engulf the Asian Games taekwondo tournament on Wednesday when a Taiwanese fighter was disqualified mid-bout for wearing unauthorised electronic sensors in her socks.

File photo of Yang Shu-Chun (blue) of Taiwan fighting Daynellis Montejo of Cuba during the women's -49kg taekwando bronze medal competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 20, 2008. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/Files

Yang Shu-Chun broke down in tears and staged a sit-down protest on the mat for several minutes after she was disqualified when leading Thi Hau Vu of Vietnam 9-0 in their 49-kg bout.

“We are very angry,” Yang’s coach Liu Ching-Wen told Reuters after protesting the decision. “The athlete prepared for these games for a year-and-a-half and her goal was to win gold but now she can’t compete.

“She is very upset, we are all very upset.”

The decision sparked an angry slanging match between Taiwanese and Chinese journalists at a press conference, as officials refused to translate questions as to whether the decision had been politically motivated.

Political tensions have long simmered between Taiwan and China since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 following the Communist victory in a civil war.

China has vowed to bring the island under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

Taekwondo fighters have worn electronic sensors and padding when competing at elite competitions for a number of years to enable judges to better determine scoring for the often lightning-quick kicks and punches.

Yang’s coach denied his fighter had breached the rules and said the sensors had been green-lighted by tournament officials.

A senior official from the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) disputed that, and said Yang had put the sensors in her footwear even after officials had earlier confiscated another set from her.

“The sensors give the fighter an unfair advantage by making the blows seem bigger than they are,” said WTF secretary general Yang Jin Suk, adding that the decision was fair and more sanctions could be expected.

Taekwondo was added to the Olympic programme at Sydney in 2000 and has had a troubled history at top multi-sport events.

The tournament lurched from crisis to crisis at the 2008 Beijing Games, as teams angrily disputed judges’ decisions and a Cuban fighter kicked a referee in the head in anger after he was disqualified for time-wasting.


The men’s cycling had its share of spills on Wednesday, with Iran’s Mohammad Parash exiting the venue on a stretcher after colliding with Zhang Lei of China in the keirin.

Uzbekistan’s Vadim Shaekhov earlier crashed into Cho Ho-sung after the South Korean swerved to avoid another crash, leaving the riders tumbling down the track in a pile of bikes and bodies.

Angered when the former Asian champion Cho shoved his bike away, the Uzbek swung a kick at the South Korean but missed.

His intent, if not his aim, drew praise from his coach. “Shaekhov did try to kick him. Good on him,” he said.

There was far less acrimony at the pool where Park Tae-hwan’s third title at Guangzhou drew only admiration and praise.

Park, a winner of three golds and four other medals at Doha, in 2006, was fifth at the turn of the 100 metres freestyle but exploded in the final 25 metres to haul in China’s Lu Zhiwu.

The South Korean pin-up boy and Olympic 400m champion will have a shot at making the first clean sweep of all the Asian freestyle events when he races the 1,500me on Thursday.

“At these Games, I have broken my personal bests and have learned a lot. I have worked very hard, and I thank my coach. I just try to do my best,” he said.

It was another dark night at the pool for Japan, however, after talisman and multiple Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima pulled out of his 200me breaststroke title defence with a sore shoulder, compounding his disappointment of failing to win a medal in the 50 and 100 metres.

China’s insatiable appetite for gold showed little sign of waning, the hosts bagging another 20 to reach 97 after the fifth day of competition. South Korea moved up to 29 golds and lie second on the medal table, while Japan’s 17 left them third.

Editing by Justin Palmer