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Medal joy for Afghanistan as judging rows rumble on
Agence France-Presse, PTI
Busan, October 12, 2002
First Published: 18:52 IST(12/10/2002)
Last Updated: 18:52 IST(12/10/2002)

War-torn Afghanistan won its first medal of the Asian Games for 20 years on Saturday as judging controversies plagued day 14.

Afghanistan, making a return to the international sporting fold at the Games, had taekwondo protagonist Roia Zamani -- and the luck of the draw -- to thank for earning a bronze.

Zamani, a 23-year-old English teach from Kabul, was guaranteed the medal after being handed a bye into the semi-finals of the women's middleweight category without even having to fight.

Defeat to her Korean opponent in the last four could not deflect from the pride of earning Afghanistan's one and only medal of the games.

"It is just a first step for women in Afghanistan. We have just started by coming to the Asian Games. They should follow us," she said.

She said the Afghans were not fully prepared because they started from scratch only one year ago after the Taliban's overthrow.

"But next time, I am sure we'll be more prepared. My next target is to continue taekwondo and one day to be the winner of the whole world," she said with a smile.

For the second day running, the taekwondo tournament -- like boxing -- was at the centre of a judging controversy, with Iranian team members accusing officials of favouring Korean fighters.

"It's not a fair play. Why do we have the same referee arrangements when we fight South Koreans?" shouted Iran head coach Gholam Hassan Zolghadri after Yossef Karami lost to Korea's Olympic champion Kim Kyong-Hun 7-6.

"Are all the gold medals for Korea?" he added. The Iranians did not, however, lodge an official protest.

Saturday's boxing semi-finals meanwhile saw a disastrous day for Thailand, with star fighters Suban Pannon and Manon Boonjumnong being eliminated.

Thailand's Cuban coach Ismael Salas, who has been one of the most vocal critics of judging in the boxing tournament, had no complaints with the defeats however.

The same could not be said for 20-year-old Syrian heavyweight Naser Alshami, who exited bawling in his corner with a section of the gallery jeering and shouting at the judges.

In the women's athletics, the day belonged to Chinese 5,000m runner Sun Yingjie. Sun, a former member of the same club as controversial Chinese coach Ma Junren, served notice she will break the 5,000m world record next season after nudging the mark.

The 23-year-old with an unorthodox running style, she keeps both arms almost straight down, produced one of the outstanding track performances at the Games with a solo bid for the record.

Running just four days after winning the 10,000m final, Sun stormed away after a slow first three laps, and at one stage opened up a near-100m lead as she went on to shatter the Games record by more than a minute.

In the tennis tournament, gold went as expected to Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan in the men's singles.

Paradorn swept past South Korea's Lee Hyung-Taik 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 to confirm his place as the undisputed king of Asian tennis.

Yet the Thai star hinted the lack of decent competition may prompt him to skip the next Games in Doha.

"I know how important the Asian Games are to Thailand and the medal here will be good for them but I will have to see about the 2006 Games and see what my schedule is like if they need me to play again," he said.

The men's hockey final saw defending champions India downed 4-3 by South Korea with a goal two minutes from time after India had fought back from three goals down.


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