Oddly Enough

Finger-flicking competitor handed ban in China

BEIJING (Reuters) - A leading Chinese speed skater has been banned for one year after he made obscene gestures towards spectators during a national tournament, local media reported Tuesday, citing sport authorities.

Song Xingyu became so frustrated by jeering aimed at him from the stands that he raised his middle finger to the crowd both during and after the 10,000 metre final at the winter session of China’s National Games in Shenyang Sunday.

“They were too tenacious. As soon as I came yesterday, they were constantly yelling at me to make me slip up. It was the same in the 500 and 5,000 metre (races),” web portal quoted the 19-year-old as saying.

Local Chinese sport crowds can be fiercely partisan and home fans often give athletes from other provinces a harsh reception.

Photos attached to online media reports showed the young skater exchanging hand gestures with spectators.

Song, who holds the national record over the distance but finished sixth Sunday, would be banned from competition until Jan 6, 2010, the report said, citing the sport authority in the skater’s home province of Heilongjiang.

“During the period of the ban, Song Xingyu is ordered to recognise the seriousness of his mistake, reflect on his improper behaviour during the National Games and write a self-criticism,” the report quoted the Heilongjiang Sport Bureau as saying.

Reporting by Ian Ransom and Liu Zhen; Editing by John O’Brien