Fencing’s Never-Ending Second | Strangest Moments


Fencing is a noble pursuit. For a sport that has its roots
in medieval score-settling, controversy is surprisingly
rare. It has featured at
every Summer Olympic Games since the birth of the modern
Olympic movement in 1896. During those years, fencing has
stayed largely out of the spotlight. As a minority sport where
honour and respect are key, scandal is practically
unheard of. That all changed in 2012. Before we get to all that, a quick guide to Olympic
fencing. Epee bouts are
the most straightforward type of fencing contest
to watch and referee. The rules are simple – the first fencer to hit
their opponent, on any part of their body,
earns a point. After each point, the fencers return to their “en garde”
positions and they go again. Whoever has the most points when time expires is the
winner. If the two fencers hit each
other at the same time, they’re both awarded a point. The exception to this rule
is when the scores are tied and the next hit
would win the match. In these circumstances, the scores remain the same
and the bout restarts. The women’s Epee semifinal in
2012 saw reigning Olympic champion
Britta Heidemann take on South Korea’s Shin
A-lam. As we just said, whoever
could land the most hits in the time available
would win the bout. But that’s not strictly true.
It isn’t quite that simple. Before a sudden-death
extra minute starts, one fencer is randomly
assigned “priority”, meaning that in the event of a
tie they’re awarded the win. Going into the extra minute
Shin A-lam had priority, so a draw would be enough for her to progress to the
final. It was cagey. As they entered the extra
minute, the scores were locked
at 5-5. The priority rule meant that the onus was on Heidemann
to attack. Shin was in control. With 24 seconds remaining, Heidemann went on the
offensive. In the space of 20 seconds,
she registered five hits. Unfortunately for her, each one was successfully
countered by Shin, resulting in
a series of double hits, none of which registered as
points. Time was running out. With one second on the clock,
it was do-or-die for Heidemann. Another attempt failed. She tried again. No luck. The official clock was still
showing one second. She tried again. Shin forced another double hit. Incredibly, the clock
still displayed one second. The fencing clock ticks down in increments of one full
second. So whether there’s one
thousandth of a second remaining
or a full second remaining, the clock will display one
second. But after three Heidemann
attacks, Shin knew that there could only
be fractions of a second left. Victory was in sight. The referee asked the
timekeeper to ensure that the
clock was correct. The timekeeper misinterpreted
this instruction, and started the clock,
which immediately hit zero. The crowd thought it was all
over, and Shin appeared to have
won. But the bout hadn’t
officially restarted, so the elapsed time didn’t
count. It was up to the referee
to put time back on the clock. The smallest number that could
go on the clock was a full second. REFEREE: En garde, s’il vous
plait. It was inaccurate,
but she had no choice. Heidemann had another chance,
and she had time to play with. Shin was distraught. COACH: One second! Her coach was furious, but his protests fell on deaf
ears. It meant there would be
another chance for Heidemann, who wasn’t ready to give up
her title of Olympic Champion. REFEREE: En garde. Allez. It was a clean hit as time
expired. Heartbreak for Shin. The Koreans launched an appeal. According to fencing rules, Shin A-lam could not leave the
piste while the officials
analysed the appeal. She waited. And waited… And the winner of
the second semifinal, representing Germany, Britta Heidemann. Even after the official
appeal was rejected, she remained on the piste in
tears, eventually being escorted off
by officials from the International Fencing
Federation. In total, she was there
for 70 heart-breaking minutes. The image of Shin sat alone
on the piste weeping uncontrollably became an iconic moment
of the 2012 Olympic Games. And the fans inside
the Excel Arena left knowing that they had witnessed a bizarre slice of
Olympic Games history.

100 Replies to “Fencing’s Never-Ending Second | Strangest Moments

  1. Considering there were three exchanges already in less than one second there was clearly enough time for the last exchange. Even with 1/5th a second that was enough time for one more attack. The German won fare and square. The last exchange would have happened regardless. You could tell the German was in the fight until the end While the other girl was full of anxiety.

  2. Let's just called it a draw
    Meanwhile
    Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life and in this situation almost doesn't count ??

  3. So Shin experienced "fairness". In a fair match, 'priority' wouldn't exist and extra time would be added until somebody scored first. That's exactly what happened here, albeit by accident. What kind of nonsense is priority??? Might as well draw the winner out of a hat!

  4. Even though they set it to 1 second…if they stopped the clock when she hit her and it was above 0.8 she'd have won if it was below 0.8 she loses. Priority rule or not its not fair to add more time to a round, especially in the olympics, just because you messed up what clock you got.

  5. Why are people in thr comments blaming the Olympic clock? Blame the timekeeper for starting the clock. The clock is just a clock⏰⏰?

  6. I do agree-that it was unfair but as a fencer myself it's not the the Olympics fault for not have the 1/1000 those are just the fencing rules

  7. it's weird to me that the olympic channel would upload this as a "bizarre piece of olympic history" when it's really "an example of embarrassing failure by the olympic organizers that cost an athlete her gold medal"

  8. Instead of doing a wrong just to get a winner they should have said they can't assure a fair ending so no one would be awarded the prize.

  9. Not surprising. The Olympics are absolute garbage at correcting when errors have been made at their games.
    They are smooth machines when things work. When something doesn't, they are absolutely horrible at recognizing that an error has been made and correcting it. It never happens.

  10. So sad. She ended up losing the bronze medal match, too. Heidemann ended up losing the gold medal match in sudden death overtime, too. Wow.

  11. Why are theyre so many idiots in the comments? It doesnt matter if the olympics had better clocks, they HAVE TO abode by fencing rules

  12. there was a BIG DIFFERENCE between a MILLIsecond to a SECOND. so disappointed about what happened to reset the time for a WHOLE SECOND. Your my champion Shin!

  13. Couldn't they have just subtracted the amount of time the milliseconds would have been from a full second? Like they'res 0.40 seconds left it resets to 1.0 then just stop the clock at 0.60 milliseconds?

  14. German girl doesn’t seem sympathetic at all, considering she won because the olympics didn’t have access to a clock with milliseconds. I wouldn’t have been able to accept a win after that

  15. l saw TV ..?. Never forget.. When she poses in victory
    .. It was the feeling of Jews as Korean. ?
    We didn't blame her.. Until she raised her hands and cheered.. ? It was an unexpected behavior..
    Honestly I was surprised
    .. Watching the Olympics of Sports Spirit.. Korea has a similar history as Jews.. Just shocked ?
    Sorry for the Germans.. I think that they wouldn't want to receive such a medal too. ? Even I did not know.. THE nightmare passed before my eyes

  16. Priority is not random at all. Both athletes start with no priority. Then priority is rewarded to an athlete when they are offensive/attacking (ie. The other person flinches). Or if they parry the other athlete's sword. This comprises almost all situations in fencing and rarely are there ever any exceptions. Especially in professional fencing.

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