The essence of sports is winning through fair play.
Sadly, some competitions in the Southeast Asian Games currently happening in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is not the best example of this notion.
One story that touched the hearts was that of a Filipina athlete who lost what could have been the Philippines’ first ever SEA Games gold in vovinam, a martial art sport that originated in Vietnam more than 70 years ago.
Hergie Bacyadan, a former national wushu and boxing player, participated for the first time in vovinam, after learning and training in the sport for three months.
She didn’t disappoint as she handily won her first match in the semifinals over a Thai foe.
Then it was the final battle against a bet from powerhouse team Vietnam.
Using her sheer power and gifted fighting skills, Hergie matched up well with the Vietnamese and ended the bout, including the extra round at 6-6.
But in the final seconds, there was a clear punch that should have been scored and made the difference in favor of Hergie.
The Filipino coaches raised a video protest.
For nearly an hour they were pleading their case and insisted on getting the point. Some of the technical committee members, composed mainly of Vietnamese, of course, didn’t budge.
But the coaches, claiming any martial artist worth his salt know it was a scoring punch.
When the Vietnamese coach was called, he claimed there was a counter punch that should be scored for his wars.
In an instant, the committee heard and agreed with him, even if it looked like it was just a glancing blow–and a committee member also said it was a blow by the palm.
Both are not scoring hits.
In the end, the committee denied the Philippines’ video protest and a succeeding formal written protest.
And here’s the catch.
The gold was awarded to the Vietnamese via raffle draw.
Everyone in the venue cheered the Filipino, knowing she should have won.
The Philippines did not take it sitting down as they pursued the case.
Again, they were denied.
Other participating counties also complained of the inefficient scoring of referees and judges.
Thailand said it will not allow unfair judging when they turn host in the next SEA Games in 2025.
Vietnamese officials of the sport are trying to grow and propagate the sport of vovinam globally.
It should begin with a more efficient scoring system to prevent misjudgment and perception of favoritism so that other countries can be lured to join.
Athletes train for long hours with sweat and blood.
It would be a big injustice to let them lose due to incompetence — if not undue bias– of officials.
A gold medal should be won in the battlefield fair and square.