No Indian fencer has ever been in the semifinals of the Asian Games, and China’s top women’s individual sabre athlete and world No.12Shao Yaqi stood in the way of Bhavani and a quarterfinal victory. But the scenes at the end of her 7-15 defeat is not what Bhavani would want to remember.
She stormed off the arena in dejection and anger, alleging that she was once again at the receiving end of unfair umpiring, which she protested early in the last-eight clash.
“Honestly, I don’t agree with the referee’s decision on the first few points. Even the first point, when I asked him for a video (referral), he was angry immediately. I was surprised why he had to get angry first of all; sometimes they do if we doubt their decisions (but) it was a quarterfinal. So then I told myself to focus on the next touch,” said Bhavani talking to Timesofindia.com in Hangzhou.
The world No. 32 Bhavani had only 8 touches (points) against her in five matches, until she faced her first serious challenge in the Round of 16 against Thailand’s Tonkhaw Phokaew, who secured 9 touches before Bhavani won 15-9.
In the quarters, Bhavani not only had to ward off the stiff challenge from Yaqi but also the crowd support for the home fencer. The alleged bias on the umpiring front tripled that challenge.
She was particularly unhappy about a parry riposte [offensive action by a fencer against the opponent who has parried (warded off) an attack], which clearly put her off, leading to a few mistakes.
“I don’t know why he had to give it (a point) to my opponent on a parry riposte. He said it is not parry riposte, it’s an attack from her (the Chinese). I was more upset on that point,” Bhavani further shared with this reporter from TimesofIndia.com, as her voice choked.
“When he (the referee) did that, I got upset and lost control. Of course, she then got so many points that it was difficult for me to come back and focus on the strategies.
“Many times I have faced this but did not expect to continue to face this. I know she is a strong fencer, one of the strongest in the world, and I know it was a tough match, but I was feeling very good today and had worked so hard for the Asian Games.”
India haven’t so far lodged an official protest with the organising committee, but Bhavani wants to take it up with the Fencing Association of India’s secretary general, Rajeev Mehta, who is expected to reach Hangzhou on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“I think we have to fight on the piste (for any umpiring decisions that seem unfair), so that they (the authorities) know that we understand this,” said Bhavani, who almost broke down.
Incidentally, Bhavani had a disagreement with the referee during her defeat in the Asian Championships semifinal as well earlier this year in June.
When the match was evenly poised at 14-14, Bhavani was shown a red card for an early start (resumption) against Uzbekistan’s Zaynab Dayibekova, and the Indian’s request for a video referral was turned down, forcing her to settle for a bronze, which was also historic as it was India’s first ever medal at the event.
Bhavani regained her composure before concluding the chat.
“Sometimes it happens, but we have to always keep fighting until we become one of the strongest fencing nations. Anyway, it has happened and (is) finished now. We can only try (to ensure) that something like this does not happen again.”