2012 Olympics

The Longest Second

A Lam Shin (KOR) distraught after losing in overtime.

Controversy broke out at the second semi-final match in the Women’s Individual Epee event at the conclusion of the bout between Britta Heidemann (GER) and A Lam Shin (KOR). A protest over the timekeeping has stalled out the Olympic event and Shin is left to wait on strip while the formal protest is decided on.

The bout had gone to a 5-5 tie in regulation and Shin was awarded priority for the overtime minute. According to the FIE and Olympic rules for fencing, the overtime is sudden death – meaning that a one-light hit decides the match. If no touch is scored during that minute, then the fencer with priority wins the bout.

During the minute Heidemann pressed and pushed Shin back to her end of the strip, but every time that the 2008 Gold Medalist launched an attack, Shin was ready with a counter – causing double-touches that are thrown out in overtime.

Finally, there was only one second left and Shin was backed up at the end of the strip. Heidemann would have only one chance to score the winning touch.

She got 4. On the last touch, Heidemann would score.

This brought out the Korean coach who lodged a formal protest. How could a fencer launch that many attacks – double-touch actions – within one second of fencing time?

The timing mechanism for fencing only displays whole seconds and even the logs displaying the score and time only show whole seconds, not tenths or hundredths. Added to that, in one of the breaks the timer mistakenly started the clock, so it had to be reset back to one second. (Again, there is no provision or way to set the clock for a fraction of a second and no method of review to determine the time.)

Britta Heidemann (GER) on scoring the eventual winning touch

After a long delay for the protest, Shin was escorted off of the strip by two officials. The decision would stand and Shin will have to contend for the bronze. Heidemann will go on to compete for the Gold medal.

Korea’s coach looks on as officials decide his fencer’s

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