Italy lodged a protest with the FIE over on-strip celebrations by the Chinese men’s foil team at the conclusion of the gold medal match on Thursday. As Sheng Lei scored the 45th touch that put China up 45-43, the Chinese team jumped up on the strip to celebrate, apparently before the referee had officially awarded the touch. The referee assessed a yellow card warning to the team, but maintained that since the celebration was after the touch and the warning was not against the fencer nor part of the action that the touch stood and China won the world championship.
The Italian contingent, lead by CT Stefano Cerioni, lodged a protest stating that the warning should annul the touch and that the match should have remained at 44-43 and the match should be restarted from that point.
This protest took close to 30 minutes on the venue floor at the Grand Palais until the rules committee stated that they would make a ruling on Friday morning.
This morning the FIE responded:
The Italian delegation has requested that the hit scored by China in the final in Men’s Team Foil, giving the score 45-43 to China, should be annuled.
The Directoire Technique decides:
1) That the Chinese fencers acted against the rule t.92.6 and were penalised by a yellow card in accordance with that rule
2) That, in accordance with o.62 this decision was confirmed by the delegates of the FIE Refereee’s Commission
3) That the hit scored but the Chinese team was valid and should not be annulled regardless if article t.92.6 or t82.3 is applied
4) That the fee paid by the Italian federation will be kept by the FIE
For much of the gold medal match in the Italy vs. China Men’s Team Foil match at the 2010 World Championships, Italy held the lead. Once the Chinese fencers started to chip away at the lead, Italy started to get nervous. They argued calls, asked for video reviews and apparently were trying to work any angle to get into the Chinese fencers heads.
The celebration following the final touch is not anything new. Mariel Zagunis had to be reminded to go back to the strip to salute her opponent following her first Olympic Gold Medal in Athens, and it is common for the team to rush the strip on the concluding touch.
A call for “unsportsmanlike conduct” or “excessive celebration” after a touchdown in football seems to be the offense most similar to the one which the Chinese team committed. Just as in a football game, the penalty does not negate the action itself nor any points scored.
The reaction within the world fencing community came quickly, with most nations (even other European nations) quickly siding with the Chinese and against Italy’s tactics. Members of the French forum Escrime-Info.com sided with China, one quote being: “The Chinese are splendid winners. We may be annoyed to see this bulldozer attacking our historical bastions but we must recognize that they really understand everything about fencing and the spirit of fencing. They were impeccable, they honored what we love in this sport and even when the minds could have gotten out of control, they acted like true gentlemen. I was Italian at the beginning of the game, Chinese at the end.
References (thanks to forum user Gladius for the links):
The Italian point of view:
The French (via escrime-info.com):
What say you? Did the DT make the right call in your opinion? Should Italy have protested or was it just sour grapes?
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