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Asian Games

Chinese athlete Wu apologises to Jyothi Yarraji for false start controversy

Following criticism on Chinese social media, disqualified hurdler Wu Yanni apologises to Jyothi Yarraji for a 'misjudgement'.

Chinese athlete Wu apologises to Jyothi Yarraji for false start controversy

Wu Yanni celebrates at the end of the 100m hurdles final at the Asian Games as Jyothi Yarraji looks on. Wu was later disqualfied, upgrading Jyothi's bronze to a silver. (AFP)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 3 Oct 2023 8:32 AM GMT

Hangzhou: A day after a massive controversy erupted at the Asian Games over a false start before Jyothi Yarraji won India's first ever 100m hurdles medal, the prime antagonist of the episode, China's Wu Yanni, has apologised for her 'misjudgement'.

Saying she is sorry to all the other athletes in the 100mH final, especially 'Indian player Jyothi Yarraji', Wu said she respects the decision of the officials to disqualify her and that she needs to work on her starting technique.

"I would like to express my deep apology to all the friends who supported me, and also to the players. I would like to say to everyone, I'm sorry! I respect the final decision of the referee team and the rules of the game. My starting technique needs to be improved, and my mentality needs to be readjusted. I really wanted to win the final," Wu wrote on Chinese social media website Weibo on Monday.

"To the Indian player Jyothi Yarraji, who was next to me, (I want to say) there was a misjudgment and I'm really sorry," she said.

Wu Yanni's apology post on Weibo

Wu Yanni, a 25-year-old member of the Chinese athletics team, has been under severe scrutiny for causing one of the most controversial moments of the ongoing Asian Games - not just in India, but also in the host country.

The star athlete has been criticised on Weibo not only for her false start and subsequent argument with the officials despite clear video replays, but also grabbing a Chinese flag at the end of the race to celebrate her silver medal (which was later rescinded), leaving gold medallist Yuwei Lin without a national flag for a few moments.

Jyothi, for her part, has refused to blame Wu for the incident, saying that she too is an athlete like her, but said that 'cheating' should never be appreciated in any sport.

Jyothi's coach James Hillier, meanwhile, said that the Chinese girls were scared of Jyothi even before the race.

"There was a lot of tension before the race, in the warm-up Jyothi told me Wu kept looking at her a lot. They were worried about Jyothi, they knew how good she is...China is a tough place to come and run. I'd like to see those Chinese girls come to India and compete with her," Hillier said.

Apology makes up for awkward embrace

Wu and Jyothi, the two main characters of the drama that played out on Sunday night at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre, were the two last hurdlers to briefly embrace at the end of the final.

All the other hurdlers - including gold medal winner Yuwei Lin (twice) - had gone over to Jyothi to congratulate her immediately as the race ended. Even after the final, there were photos of Lin and Jyothi celebrating together, but Wu was conspicuously absent.

Known across China for a 'bad girl' reputation for her tattoos, make-up and outspoken nature, Wu has suffered one of the biggest embarrasments of her career for protesting a decision shown to be correct in high definition replays on giant screens.

"Wow! We thought Wu was protesting on behalf of the Indian girl. She has no shame. She is a repeat offender," reads one comment against her on Weibo. Lack of sportsmanship and arrogance are some of the other accusations made against her by fans.

Her unequivocal apology, on the other hand, has also drawn many comments in support, wishing that she roars back to form at the Paris Olympics. It would definitely have made her less of a villain in the eyes of Indian fans.

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