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Asian Games

'Referee was unjust with me': Bhavani Devi lashes out at bias towards Chinese fencer

Bhavani Devi went on a six-match winning streak, but fell 7-15 to Chinese fencer Shao Yaqi in controversial manner in the quarterfinals.

Referee was unjust with me: Bhavani Devi lashes out at bias towards Chinese fencer

Bhavani Devi of India and Shao Yaqi of China at the beginning of their match. While the match started with a smile and handshake, there was no smile accompanying the cursory handshake at the end of the controversial match.


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 26 Sep 2023 12:44 PM GMT

Hangzhou, China: Bhavani Devi said she was robbed of history at the Asian Games by biased refereeing towards the home fencer after her controversial defeat in the quarterfinals in Hangzhou, China on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old pathbreaking fencer stunned everybody in the pool stages on Tuesday morning to go on a six-match winning streak but fell 7-15 to Chinese fencer Shao Yaqi. Had Bhavani managed to win one more match and qualify for the semis, she would have been the first Indian fencer to ever do so.

"The referee was not right with me in the beginning, he gave a quick series of 3-4 touches to the Chinese fencer which I was sure in my mind were actually my touches," Bhavani said after her quarterfinal heartbreak.

"Our game is fast, you cannot give so many points away to someone so quickly. But it was my mistake too, I started worrying about things that were not in my control. A big deficit had been created and I could not make a comeback. I tried my best, so I have no regrets," she said.

Clearly unimpressed with the refereeing from the outset of the quarterfinal, Bhavani went for a challenge as early on as in the second point, but it was an unsuccessful one. She kept protesting through the match, before throwing her sabre to the ground and storming off with her coach at the conclusion.

In contrast to the 15 hits she received in that match, she had received a total of 17 hits across the six previous matches she had won earlier in the day.

Her opponents in the earlier matches included reigning Asian champion Zaynab Dayibekova from Uzbekistan. The other opponents she beat on her way to the controversial quarterfinal were from Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Singapore, and Thailand.

Looking forward from the disappointment of the Asian Games, Bhavani said that her focus now shifts to qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

"The Asian Championships bronze has been the biggest achievement of my career so far, it has given me a boost for the Paris Olympics. There will be eight tournaments, starting next week, which will serve as Olympic qualifiers. My aim is to now qualify for it and then start preparing for Paris," she said.

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