Taekwondo fighter Zheng Shuyin cries as China demands apology for ‘very dirty’ disqualification
- Chinese team want referee banned for life after penalising Olympic champion Zheng Shuyin in world championships final against Britain’s Bianca Walkden
- ‘I wish the referee could have been fair,’ says Zheng, who collapses in tears on the podium
Chinese taekwondo officials and media have demanded an apology and a lifetime ban for the referee who disqualified their Olympic champion Zheng Shuyin and denied her gold at the world championships.
Zheng was penalised by Moroccan referee Tarik Benradi for racking up 10 fouls in the +73kg heavyweight final against Britain’s Bianca Walkden in Manchester last Friday.
A series of unquestionable penalties were given when Walkden repeatedly pushed the Chinese fighter off the mat, a tactic perhaps considered unsportsmanlike but which is within the rules.
Zheng, who won gold in the +67kg category at the 2016 Rio Olympics, had been 20-10 up before she was forced into the penalties and the referee disqualified her.
China called the decision “bizarre” and a “scandal” and Zheng was in tears on the mats as Walkden celebrated – to a chorus of boos inside the venue.
A distraught Zheng later collapsed on the top spot of the podium during the medal ceremony.
“From the first day I picked up this sport, I understood that there was no such thing as absolute fairness in competition,” she said in an interview with Chinese media. “I have been doing this sport for 16 years but this is the first time I have realised that a taekwondo match could be played like this.”
“I wish the referee could have been fair in this competition,” Zheng added between loud sobs.
The 25-year-old’s head coach Guan Jianmin consoled her after the defeat and appeared to direct a “thumbs down” gesture towards officials.
“We hope World Taekwondo [the governing body] will give us justice,” Guan, who is also the Chinese Taekwondo Federation president, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
“We made two requests in the appeal. Firstly, the decision should be overturned. Secondly, the referee should be banned for life.”
“Our athlete has worked very hard for this gold medal and it was taken away so easily by the referee,” Guan added. “This is very dirty.”
Walkden, 27, was also in tears on the podium. “It’s not how I wanted it to go, but a win is a win,” she told BBC Sport.
“Obviously it wasn’t nice [to hear the boos], but I never gave up and was going to die out there fighting for the win, which I think showed.
“I did what I had to and I’m now a three-time world champion, which they can’t take away from me.”