Fri, Nov 19, 2010 - Page 1 News List

SOCKGATE: Public cries foul in Games row

SOCKED:Lawmakers and the public alike expressed outrage over Yang Shu-chun’s disqualification. Some politicians even set fire to South Korean flags

By Vincent Y. Chao and Ko Shu-ling  /  Staff Reporters, with agencies

Tung Chung-yen, a Democratic Progressive Party candidate for Taipei city councilor, performs a skit outside the office of the Sports Affairs Council yesterday in protest at its acceptance of the disqualification of Taiwanese athlete Yang Shu-chun from the taekwondo competition at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Staff Reporters, with agencies

Taiwanese sports fans and lawmakers remained emotionally charged yesterday over the disputed disqualification of Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君) at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, with many accusing China of foul play.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, meanwhile, also came under fire for issuing remarks deemed by many as a “weak response” to Yang’s disqualification.

Yang, one of the nation’s gold medal hopefuls at the Games, had almost defeated Vietnamese Vu Thi Hau in a women’s under-49kg bout on Wednesday when Asian Taekwondo Union (ATU) vice president Zhao Lei (趙磊) called into question the electronic sensors in Yang’s socks with 12 seconds left in the first round.

Footage of the match showed Yang was caught by surprise when she returned to the ring after a technician had inspected her socks and was abruptly handed a 12-0 loss.

She then broke down in tears when her disqualification was announced. The judges had ruled that her socks carried unauthorized extra electronic sensors behind the heel.

Despite protests from the Taiwanese delegation, insisting the sensors were carefully checked and approved before her match, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) remained adamant on its ruling, suggesting that Yang had cheated and that she and her coach would face further sanctions for staging a sit-in protest.

A post-match press conference deepened feelings of rancor, with Taiwanese and Chinese journalists trading barbs as officials refused to translate questions as to whether the decision had been politically motivated. Taiwanese perceptions of foul play in the Yang decision were also fed by media reports that Zhao, from China, was one of its authors. The event was eventually won by China’s Wu Jingyu (吳靜鈺), who reportedly considers Zhao one of her mentors.

Yang, red-eyed and sleepless, said little yesterday, but some of her outraged fans were more vocal.

Taiwanese netizens engaged in a barrage of criticism against the WTF ruling, with new groups on Facebook in support of Yang attracting a large number of people.

The controversial disqualification, however, appears to have helped bridge the nation’s political divide after leading politicians from both parties angrily decried Wednesday’s decision.

Lawmakers from both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) pledged support for Yang in separate press conferences held yesterday.

KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) announced the caucus has launched a signature campaign in support of Yang, adding that the nation must stand up and fight for Yang’s rights.

“Every signature symbolizes the gold medal awarded by the Taiwanese public to Yang,” Lin said.

Suggestions by games officials that Yang cheated were a “disgrace to everybody around the country,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a separate press conference. “The responsibility should fall on the people that conducted the checks.”

DPP lawmakers also delivered a strongly worded message against Sports Affairs Council (SAC) officials who had accompanied Taiwanese athletes to the Games, charging them with “being useless” and said they failed to step up for Yang immediately after the ruling.

“A large number of officials attended the Games,” DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) said. “But all they have done so far is appear at and partake in the ceremonies when our athletes win. When Yang was disqualified, what did they do? Nothing.”

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