By Phillip Whitten
BUSAN, South Korea, October 5. KOREAN news media here are charging that Asian Games officials are making decisions in swimming and other aquatic sports that are contrary to the rules, most of which benefit China.
Among the charges are that China's Luo Xuejuan, winner of the women's 100m breaststroke in an Asian record 1:06.84 — the second fastest time in history – should have been disqualified for an illegal turn; and that the Chinese women's 4 X 200m freestyle relay team should have been disqualified after a Chinese swimmer jumped into another team's lane.
According to an article entitled "Swimming Is Murky Because of Judging Controversies" on the Korean-language web site of the Korean news agency, Hankyoreh:
"On October 1, in the women’s 100m breaststroke final, China’s Luo Xuejuan, who won this event, deceived the judge’s eyes and made an improper move when she made a turn at the 50m point, but the judge ignored it. The judge’s mistake was revealed on October 3 through a video analysis.
"Kim Bong-jo, the head coach of the Korean swim team, said, 'judges should make courageous and decisive rulings so the world-class athletes don’t become timid.'"
Luo is no stranger to controversy. Two years ago, while competing at a FINA World Cup meet in Melbourne, Australia, Luo allegedly refused a blood doping test, barricading herself in the women's rest room and refusing to come out until FINA officials agreed not to test her.
The women's 4 x 200m free relay also witnessed controversy. As Hankyoreh described: "On October 1, in the women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay, the Chinese swimmer who finished first invaded the next lane, but the judges did not disqualify her. Japan immediately appealed, but the Federation’s Judging Committee, which is comprised of officials of Chinese descent, held in favor of the Chinese swimmer by saying that this invasion was unintentional.
"This is in a sharp contrast to last year’s World Championship, during which the team that finished first (Australia) got disqualified because they got too excited and jumped into the water.
"The judge’s ability, or lack of ability, pollutes the quality of swimming."
Swimming wasn't the only sport to attract controversy. Hankyoreh noted that water polo, too, had seen a decision that contravened the rules, though this time the beneficiary was Iran.
Hankyoreh commented: "After the relay competitions, the Asian Swimming Federation’s fairness and its judges’ integrity are under scrutiny, and synchronized swimming and water polo are under controversy because of the Federation officials’ 'caring for its family.'
"The Federation’s unfairness was revealed first in water polo. Even though its bylaw expressly states that if the number of participating teams is seven or fewer, then the preliminary competitions are held in full league, not group league; however, the Federation made an arbitrary interpretation which is not supported by the bylaw.
"The Federation said that 'the time when the number of the countries becomes seven or fewer is after the group bidding.' The Federation then rejected the request of China, Korea and Japan to have full league preliminary competitions for water polo.
"The reason for this arbitrary decision by the Federation is that the Chair of the Water Polo Committee and the Secretary-General [of the Federation] are Iranians, whose country’s team can go to the semifinals if it wins only one game in the group league preliminary."
In an accusation that brings to mind this year's Winter Olympics figure skating scandal, Hankyoreh noted:
"Also in the synchronized swimming duet competition, as long as there are no unusual changes, Korea’s Jang Yoon-Kyung and Kim Min-Jeong were silver medal favorites, but judges of Chinese descent from Macao and Hong Kong gave bad scores to the Korean duet, as if they had made an arrangement prior to the final.
"So the internationally inexperienced Chinese duet won the silver."
Without having witnessed the competition, it's impossible to know whether this charge is valid or the Korean reporter's nationalistic bias was showing.