Poor umpiring mars the event

A. VINOD

POOR umpiring marred the badminton events in the Busan Asiad. The beneficiary of this was the host South Korea, which won the men's team title and four individual gold medals. Each of these wins were marred by controversy. The final of the men's team event saw a walkout by the Indonesians who were really upset by several questionable line-calls.

Taufik Hidayat is arguing with an official during his singles final against Lee Hyun-Il. The Indonesian, though he won the gold, was upset by the refereeing and vowed that he would never play again in South Korea.-AP

The Indonesians felt that the local officials helped the cause of the home side, instead of remaining neutral while officiating. This gave rise to heated moments in the initial stage of the tournament itself and then things came to a boil when Taufik Hidayat walked out of the court in protest against a decision which went against him, while playing Shon Seung-Mo.

The Indonesian, who suffered due to a string of dubious calls, was frustrated when one of his smashes was called out. Hidayat was trailing 13-15, 9-12 at that stage and looked completely taken aback by that decision. The replays later showed that the ball was inside the line by at least two inches. A disgusted Hidayat angrily slammed his racquet on the floor and walked out and the Indonesian official ran towards Kim Chang-Lee, the linesman, and mockingly checked out his spectacles, even as the crowd started laughing.

The Indonesian officials were on court, talking to the chief referee, Boon Kong Ee of Singapore. They voiced their displeasure against all the four Korean linesmen. The chief referee suggested that the tie may be continued with four neutral umpires acting as line judges. But this proposal, however, did not find favour with the Koreans, whose head coach, Kim Jong-Soo, wanted the tie to be declared a walk-over in favour of South Korea.

Desperate to find a solution to the controversy, the Asian Badminton Confederation secretary-general, Punch Gunalan, intervened. Hidayat returned to the court after 45 minutes, but another one hour and fifteen minutes were spent, before a compromise was struck, which was contradiction to the relevant IBF regulations. The formula which saw the tie getting restarted saw the same line judges on duty, but the chair umpire was now armed with the power to over-rule them. The disputed point was also called a let.

When the tie finally started, Hidayat claimed the second game 15-13. But then, a further controversy erupted over yet another line-call with Hidayat trailing 10-13 in the decider. This sparked crowds anger and water bottles flew from the stands. Policemen controlled the situation but play was held up for some more time before the chair umpire came up with another over-ruling. But having gained the lead, Shon did not lose his composure this time and eventually took the match at 15-13, 13-15, 17-16.

Zhou Mi is jubilant after winning the women's singles gold.-AP

Lee Hyun-Il, the World No. 13, made it 2-0 for South Korea with an easy 15-3, 15-5 win over Rony Agustinus, who had a miserable week, losing both his matches in Indonesia's two wins (against Thailand in the first round and China in the semifinals) enroute to the final. South Korea's march to the title-round came at the expense of Japan in the quarterfinals and Malaysia in the semi-final.

Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto pulled one back for Indonesia, the Thomas Cup champion, with a 15-12, 15-10 win over Lee Dong-Soo and Yoo Yong-Sung in the opening doubles of the final. But then, the Koreans with the crowd egging them on, were quick enough to shut out the Indonesian revival. World silver-medallists Kim Dong-Moon and Ha Tae-Kwon expectedly won the second doubles against Halim Haryanto and Tri Kusharjanto 15-3, 15-6 to claim the gold medal for their country.

In fact, in the semifinals of the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, South Korea, aided again by local linesmen, defeated Indonesia in the men's team event. Pity, even after the 1986 incident, the ABC did not go for neutral umpires, at least for key matches, in Busan.

However, Hidayat had the last laugh on the final day of the Games, winning the men's singles title with back-to-back victories over Shon Seung-Mo (conqueror of India's P. Gopi Chand in the quarterfinals) and Lee Hyun-Il. The Indonesian, however, again made evident his displeasure on the Korean line judges on his way to the lone gold for his country.

Pitted against the Indonesian World No. 14, the 22-year-old Korean Lee hardly could produce the same form which had seen him floor the world champion Hendrawan of Indonesia, at 15-3, 15-4 just a day before. In fact, after having gone into a 5-3 lead, Lee faltered giving Hidayat 11 points in-a-row with two consecutive wide return of serves and six unforced errors at the net.

Hidayat, who vowed that he would never play again in South Korea, exploded once again, when another line-call went in favour of Lee, with the scoreboard reading 9-9. But with the situation well handled by the chair umpire, play continued without a break and Hidayat did not have to exert himself much before winning the tie and the gold at 15-7, 15-9.

Fortunately, the men's doubles action did not see much of controversy, other than a few disputed calls here and there. The major flutter was caused by the combine of Halim Haryanto and Tri Kusharjanto who gained revenge for their defeat in the team event final, ousting the top-seeded Kim Dong-Moon and Ha Tae-Kwon 15-7, 8-15, 15-8 in the quarters. However, for all that, the Indonesians failed to progress any further and were beaten by Thailand's Pramote Teerawiwatana and Tesana Panvisavas 17-15, 15-8 in the semis.

Yoo Yong Sung (right) and Lee Dong Soo of South Korea, the doubles title winners.-AFP

The Thai pair, in turn, could hardly do anything against South Korea's second combine of Lee Dong-Soo and Yoo Yong-Sung in the final. Lee and Yoo, who had struggled to defeat Malaysia's Chan Chong Ming and Chew Choon Eng 17-16, 15-12 in the semifinals, won the gold with a facile 15-11, 15-6 win. Kim Dong-Moon for his failure to get past the quarters in the doubles, later earned some consolation by winning the mixed doubles title in the company of Ra Kyung-Min. The pair enroute to the gold outclassed Thailand's Khunakorn Sudhishodhi and Saralee Thungthongkam 11-4, 11-0.

China's disappointing show in the men's section was somewhat made up by its women's squad which in a repeat of the Uber Cup final, played in Ghuangzhou during May, defeated South Korea 3-1 to retain the team title. China, served well by Zhou Mi and world champion Gong Ruina had little trouble to take the first two singles with victories over Kim Kyeung-Ran (11-9, 11-8) and Jun Jae-Youn (11-7, 11-7) respectively. Zhou had sweet revenge for her shocking loss to Kim in the Uber Cup final.

But then, China was in for a surprise when Ra Kyung-Min and Lee Kyung-Won stopped it from wrapping up the tie straightaway with a comeback-from-behind 5-11, 11-4, 11-8 win over the World No. 1 pair of Huang Nanyan and Yang Wei. The Chinese also seemed to be in for another jolt when Lee Hyo-Jung and Hwang Yu-Mi took the first set against Gao Long and Haung Sui in the second doubles. However, with Gao and Haung finding their touch in time and winning against their Korean rivals 9-11, 11-2, 11-8, the Chinese were finally through to celebrate a well-deserved win.

The Chinese domination in the women's singles was a foregone conclusion with the top two seeds Gong Ruina and Zhou Mi sailing smoothly into the final. Yet, the final as such was a great disappointment as Gong succumbed to Zhou without a fight. The second seed won the tie 11-1, 11-1 even as the capitulation of the top seeded Gong raised a few eyebrows.

China's attempt to make a clean sweep of all the golds, however, was stalled by the Korean pair of Ra-Kyung-Min and Lee Kyung-Won in the women's doubles. The duo won against Gao Ling and Huang Sui 11-8, 11-7 in a final which was marred by controversy. The Chinese spent almost 10 minutes disputing a line-call at 3-3 in the second set after a had sunk to her knees convinced that she had erred in her decision to leave a shot from Gao.

But much to the surprise of the Korean players, the shot was called out leaving the Chinese frustrated. The incident was to have a bearing in the final result with the Chinese slowly but surely fading away.

This again was no good advertisement for the game as such. All because a few officials took special care to safeguard the interests of their own country, rather than protect the image of the sport.