My son lost Olympics gold to racism, says Chukwumerije
From Alifa Daniel, Asst. Political Editor, Abuja
(CULLED FROM THE NIGERIAN GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER 26/08/2008)
THE Beijing Olympics may have ended, but in Nigeria, a senator, who spent his funds to send his son on a six-month training across the world, Uche Chukwumerije, has fired a protest to the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) over the manner the boy was allegedly short-changed out of contention for a gold or silver medal in the sports. Chika, Senator Uche Chukwumerije’s son, won a bronze medal.
The senator in a letter to the President which he read to journalists in his office at the National Assembly, explained that beyond protesting the injustice done to his son, his action would alert the administrators of taekwondo and the Olympics of the imminent danger posed to the sport by poor officiating.
Alluding to a racial tendency on the part of the administrators, the senator said that his protest was intended to ensure that the presence of African athletes in future competitions will be treated with more respect. “Sports should be blind,” he added.
He prayed the WTF president to replay the tape of this fight in any international sports channel and give the large international jury of Masters of Taekwondo an opportunity to appraise the fight and make their judgment, adding that such a jury with its experience and professionalism is more likely to deliver a merit and rule-driven verdict.
“I am compelled by the insensitivity which the dead ends of WTF official channels have offered to plead for justice and my fears about the deleterious effect of such deadness on the future of our Taekwondo sport to make this protest to you.
“The object of this petition is the poor officiating in the (Men’s Over 80kg) quarter-final tournament between Nigeria (Chika Chukwumerije) and Greece (Alexandro Nicholaidias) on August 23 in 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium). The officiating was so flawed that the victor was robbed of victory, and the defeated awarded an unmerited victory.
“My locus standi: What, you may ask, is my rightful interest in this matter? I am a member of the Taekwondo family – a senior black belt, a promoter of taekwondo in Nigeria and the father of the short-changed player in this disputed contest, Chika Chukwumerije.
On the grounds for his protest, Chukwumerije noted the overlook of a punishable violation of contest rules by Alexandro of Greece. His words: “In the second round of the contest, Alexandro held Chika by his chest protector and attempted an ass kick on the head, apparently in a desperate bid to wipe off Chika’s two-point lead. Holding an opponent while kicking is a punishable offence by Taekwondo rules. The referees overlooked the infraction. No point was deducted from Alexandro.”
He urged the WTF president to watch the tape of the fight and judge for himself.
Other grounds he gave were: “The attempted ass kick by Alexandro totally missed Chika who successfully ducked. But the referees inexplicably awarded two marks to Alexandro and he levelled up with Chika’s two-point lead.
- Denial of Chika’s score – Almost immediately after this 2-2 score, Chika made a clear kick to Alexandro’s chest. Inexplicably, the referees denied him the score.
- Second unmerited award to Alexandro – Three seconds to the end of the round, the referees inexplicably gave one point to Alexandro, bringing the score to 3-2 in his favour. No kick, no punch to justify this score.
- Deaf ears to our Constitutional Right to Hearing of our Appeal for a Review – In accordance with the rules, Chika’s coach and the Nigerian Taekwondo leadership filed a protest to the Taekwondo supervisory board against the poor officiating. To underline the seriousness of Nigeria’s concern for the stultifying effect of this level of refereeing on the future of Taekwondo, the top management of Nigeria’s Olympic Sports Organisation (comprising Habu Gumel, Chairman of Nigeria Olympics Committee; Banji Oladapo, Secretary-General of the Committee, Alhaji Bappa, the Assistant Secretary-General, Patrick Ekeji, the Director-General of Sports Development in Nigeria, Nathaniel Nnaji, Chairman, Nigeria Taekwondo Association and my humble self) met the Chairman of Africa Taekwondo Union, General Fouli of Egypt, and re-emphasised our protest.
“We were told that the protest would be considered and a review was under way. The next shock, which hit us was a display on the television screen announcing a tournament for a third position and listing Chika Chukwumerije as a contestant. This meant that our protest received merely a nominal nod, but was never treated, unlike the protest by Britain in an earlier bout.”
He further urged the WTF president to review the tapes and come to his own conclusion.
Chukwumerije went on: “From this account, the following observations are noteworthy: First, by fair officiating, this tournament should have ended 3-0 in favour of Chika Chukwumerije. The calculation is thus:- the three points given to Alexandro were unmerited gifts and therefore a nullity. On the other hand, Chika’s three (3) points — that is, the two (2) points acknowledged by the referees and the one (1) point denied by referees — were clearly earned.
Secondly, the capricious behaviour of the judges was reflected in an unprecedented number of stoppages of the fight for consultations among the referees in the bout. As can be seen in the tape, “on three occasions, the referees stopped the fight and consulted among themselves, thereby giving a strong impression that they were unsure of their readings of the contest. Please compare the stoppages in this fight with referee interventions in all the other taekwondo fights in this Olympic Games.”
Chukwumerije noted that Nigeria was bound to be demoralised, stressing that her only protection and assurance in the sport was the hope that taekwondo convention offers a level playing ground in competitions.
“This hope has now been severely undermined,” the senator lamented, adding that “the international image of taekwondo may be soiled and its standing in the comity of world sports lowered by a growing impression of subjective and unpredictable commitment of our referees to the rules of the game.
He also averred that “the insensitivity of the Taekwondo Supervisory Board to genuine protests against provable acts of poor officiating in accordance with the rules encourages anti-compliance behaviour among practitioners. Compare the responses of the Supervisory Board to two protests — Britain’s and Nigeria’s.
In an earlier bout (Women’s Under 57kg Quarter Finals), the British coach angrily shot up from his seat like thunder bolt and protested in a loud voice against a case of poor officiating. He aggressively followed up after the contest with a strong protest to the board. The supervisory board reviewed the case, played back the tape in full view of the audience, and reversed the verdict of the judges.
In Nigeria’s case, the Nigerian coach quietly waited like a law-abiding practitioner till the end of the bout to make his protest. Nigeria avoided violence of fist or body language. The supervisory board ignored our appeal and the review of the disputed contest did not take place. We gathered from the grapevine that the supervisory council was afraid that a second reversal of an unjustified verdict would be one too many and could deal embarrassing damage to the image of World Taekwondo Federation.”
Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian has been disqualified and stripped of his Olympic bronze medal.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the Swede was punished for violating the spirit of fair play during the medal ceremony.
Abrahamian, who came third in the 84kg Greco-Roman category, dumped his medal on the floor after receiving it and strode off in protest.
He was furious at a controversial penalty call in his semi-final.
The call decided the match against Italy’s Andrea Minguzzi, who went on to win the gold medal.
Following the semi-final loss to Minguzzi, Abrahamian, who won silver in the Athens Olympics four years ago, had to be restrained by his team-mates.
The IOC executive board ruled that the wrestler’s action amounted to a political demonstration and a mark of disrespect to his fellow athletes.
They added that no athlete will receive Abrahamian’s medal.