Chinese taekwondo athlete Zheng Shuyin (郑姝音) has had her revenge for the controversial loss in May’s 2019 World Taekwondo Championships. On Friday evening, 13 September 2019, Zheng Shuyin won the Women’s 67kg championship at the 2019 World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Chiba, Japan, after beating Bianca Walkden, a United Kingdom British taekwondo world champion in the final. More importantly, Zheng Shuyin has secured the qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after this win.
Zheng Shuyin, a 25-year-old Chinese taekwondo athlete from Liaoning, was the Women’s 67kg taekwondo champion in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. While her opponent, Bianca Walkden, is a 27-year-old triple taekwondo world champion from Liverpool, United Kingdom; although one of Bianca’s championships has been officially disputed, and may be repealed (to be detailed below).
During the final game held on the day of Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, Zheng Shuyin was once down by 0-5 after the opening round (the first of three 3-minute rounds in the regular time), and still fell behind by 1-5 after round two. In the critical 3rd round, Zheng Shuyin took the offense and made a few great hits, including the 3-piont hit on her opponent’s head to tie the score at 5-5.
According to the official rules for the final, the two competitors need to have an additional 1-minute Golden Round (金局), the one who scores first (with golden points) would win the whole game.
With the momentum kept from the end of the regular time, Zheng Shuyin quickly scored in less than 10 seconds after entering the Golden Round, and ended the game. When the referee officially called Zheng Shuyin as the final winner (won by 2 golden points), she threw her helmet heavily onto the ground, walked around the field and cheered to celebrate her first Grand Prix Championship. In contrast, her opponent, Bianca Walkden, just stood there at a loss.
Notably, this was the first re-match between the two rivals since the Women’s 73kg final at the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships held on May 17 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
During that controversial game, Zheng Shuyin once had a dominating 20-10 lead over Bianca Walkden at the end of the 2nd round. But in the 3rd round, the British opponent started to play dirty by not trying to score, but rather trying to get Zheng Shuyin punished with penalty points. Obviously far from sportsmanship, Bianca Walkden’s tactics finally paid off. The Moroccan referee then repeatedly awarded penalty points to Zheng Shuyin, and eventually called the game for the host country competitor before the end of the 3rd round by disqualifying Zheng Shuyin for “10 gamjeon” (i.e. accumulative 10 penalty points).
However, the main tactics of her UK British opponent, was to force Zheng Shuyin out of the ring (i.e. the boundary of the match field), by intentionally pushing in purpose of racking up Zheng’s penalty points. But according to the latest revised rules and explanations published by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) in April 2018, it is a clear violation of rule to simply push your opponent out of the ring, and the pusher is ought to be punished by the referee.
On the contrary, the referee of that game did nothing to the British, whereas penalized Zheng Shuyin for being pushed out of bound, and eventually led to Bianca Walkden’s ugly win. At the same time, Bianca Walkden even responded to the controversy after the game that she would “do exactly the same thing again” with no regrets at all. However, several international taekwondo sports officials on the field that night consider the game was seriously misjudged by the referee on many occasions.
Zhang Yinyu, an international taekwondo referee with 25-year-experience from China, after reviewing the videotape of the Manchester final game along with several other Chinese professional taekwondo referees, told the reporters that 8 out of Zheng Shuyin’s 10 penalty points are erroneously judged, and the whole game was utterly a “black-white reversal”.
Many of us watching that game would not forget the heartbroken scene when Zheng Shuyin collapsed with tears on the field and then again on the podium, as well as the crowd of audiences booed the “winner” throughout the award ceremony.
Given these backgrounds, Friday’s game was really a resounding comeback victory for Zheng Shuyin to prove herself and get the revenge after 4 months. At the same time, Zheng Shuyin has also given a great Mid-Autumn Festival gift to her Chinese fans all around the world.
On a related note, what we could draw from this episode could be threefold: firstly, all sports game (not just for taekwondo) are not going to be immune from controversy and unfairness for a long time to come in the future. On the other hand, what’s more important for all athletes is always to compete with real strength. Lastly, every loss is actually a gain, depending how you perceive it; what belongs to you will eventually come back to you, invariably.