LONDON >> She could not leave the fencing strip. By rule, that would have meant accepting defeat at the Olympics. Instead she sobbed in front of 8,000 people while referees considered her appeal.
Shin A-lam of South Korea waited like that for an hour Monday, helmet laid to one side, sometimes sitting cross-legged on the strip, sometimes with one hand covering her eyes.
She had already been ruled the loser in a semifinal epee match with Britta Heidemann of Germany, 6-5, but the South Korean team lodged an official protest and claimed time had expired before Heidemann scored the decisive point.
After the hour, the referees upheld their decision. Shin was led off the strip and given a standing ovation. She returned to play a bronze-medal match against a Chinese opponent and took an early lead, but lost 15-11 and left without a medal.
"I was in a very good shape coming here," she said through an interpreter. "In fact, I expected the gold medal."
Heidemann, perhaps distracted by the episode, lost the gold-medal match to Yana Shemyakina of Ukraine and took the silver medal. Even she said she could understand why the South Koreans had lodged the protest.
"This was bad for everyone involved and for fencing in general," Heidemann said. "It’s too bad that it happened at the Olympics. I think such decisions should not take so long."
Shin’s match with Heidemann was tied 5-5 in sudden death when Heidemann appeared to score in the final second. Had the match ended tied, Shin, who had been awarded priority under the rules, would have advanced to the gold-medal match.
"I think it’s unfair because the one second was over," Shin said. "I should have won, so it’s unfair."
Shemyakina, the gold medalist, said after beating Heidemann in the final that the protest had clearly thrown her opponent.
"It did matter to her," Shemyakina said through an interpreter. "She wasn’t able to focus on her game because she was thinking about her previous game."
Shemyakina, who had beaten Sun 14-13 in the first semifinal, said she tried to rest and focus on the final in the extra hour she had to wait as well.
"Only after the last touch of the final, I thought about the medal," she said. "In this sport, it all depends on yourself, on your mental strength. Fencing is very unpredictable."