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Friday, Oct 3, 2014

Sports

Asian Games: Indian boxer apologises for medal snub

AFP | Friday, Oct 3, 2014

India's Laishram Sarita Devi (R) reacts after she refused to accept the bronze medal as fellow bronze medallist Vietnam's Luu Thi Duyen looks on during the women's lightweight (57-60kg) boxing medal ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games at the Seonhak Gymnasium in Incheon on October 1, 2014.

INCHEON, South Korea - Indian boxer Sarita Devi has made an "unconditional apology" for her refusal to accept her Asian Games bronze medal in protest at judging decisions, boxing's governing body said Friday.

Devi's action Wednesday angered the International Boxing Association (AIBA), which started disciplinary action, and embarrassed the Incheon Games organisers. The boxing judging has sparked several protests.

The 32-year-old lightweight boxer refused to let officials put a bronze medal around her neck at the ceremony Wednesday and then she hung it around the neck of silver medallist Park Ji-Na of South Korea. Devi believed she had beaten Park.

An AIBA statement said Devi had "apologised for her improper behaviour at the award ceremony", in a letter which the Indian delegation had given to AIBA president Wu Ching-Kuo.

Devi gave "an unconditional apology" for her "emotional outburst," it added.

"I regret and apologise. Such an incident will never reoccur in the future," she was quoted as saying.

The Games organisers accepted Devi's gesture.

"We're regretful about what happened and we know that the Indian boxer made an apology. We accept it," said Park Dal-Hwa, director of Incheon Asian Games Organising Committee (IAGOC) press relations.

"I'm thankful and I accept the apology. But if she still cannot accept the outcome of the match she can file an official complaint to the OCA (Olympic council of Asia) or IAGOC." Devi's controversial semi-final defeat to Park sparked ugly scenes in the Seonhak Gymnasium boxing arena on Tuesday.

Scuffles broke out as Devi's enraged husband tried to lead a protest resulting in him launching an expletive-filled rant at officials.

At the ceremony, the bronze medal ended up abandoned on the podium and had to be retrieved by a Games volunteer.

India sought Friday to mitigate the damage done by the row.

The Indian team's chef de mission asked the AIBA president to take into account the apology and "the specific circumstances which led to such a 'spontaneous knee jerk reaction'," said AIBA's statement.

India also insisted the incident was not pre-meditated, despite the AIBA technical delegate in Incheon David Francis accusing them of a "well-planned scenario" at the medal ceremony.

IAGOC's deputy secretary general for sports, Son Cheon-Taik, has expressed concern at the boxing controversy.

"I have written a formal letter to AIBA requesting they ensure fair play in the boxing competition," he told reporters Thursday.

The Asian Games boxing has been marred by a series of judging decisions seemingly favouring South Korean boxers over Indians, Mongolians and Filipinos among others.

Philippines boxing boss Ricky Vargas was angered by a unanimous points decision Thursday that went against light flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga, who jumped for joy after his semi-final believing he beaten his South Korean opponent.

"I think it's factual, it's very hard to beat a Korean," said Vargas, president of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP).

"Hometown decisions are very prevalent here," he told AFP.

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