And these aren't the only examples.
LONDON — Christine Sinclair, the Canadian superhero, summarized what happened with an undeniable clarity: “It’s a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started.”
Sinclair had just scored three goals against the United States in an Olympic semi-final, but the force of her strength was limited to opposing players, and not the referee. As it turned out, the referee was an equally worthy foe.
Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen set Canadian players, soccer fans and even some more casual observers aflame on Monday with a series of bizarre calls that ultimately led the Americans to a 4-3 win and a trip to the gold-medal game. Canada will have to play for bronze.
By now you have probably heard what happened — from the rarely used six-second delay of game call on Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod to the resulting handball penalty. (In Sports Illustrated, writer Grant Wahl wrote of the delay call: “It’s exceedingly rare for the violation to be called at the elite level.”)“Sport is like that,” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said on Tuesday morning. “There are decisions that people don’t always agree with, and that will always happen.”
Here are five other sports in which an official has become the centre of controversy at the London Olympics:
Fencing: In what might be the most egregious example of official incompetence, a South Korean fencer was left sobbing in protest on the stage after the clock seemed to freeze in the final moments of her semi-final match last week. Shin A-lam was on her way to a gold-medal match until an obvious timing error gave her German opponent more time to score the decisive point. Shin remained on the strip for an hour in protest — leaving the strip is an acceptance of the result, according to the rules — and eventually was led away, still in tears. The International Fencing Federation reportedly offered to give her a special medal as a result. (Shin won a silver medal later in the week, in team épée, but said that did not make up for the earlier injustice. She also denied any knowledge of a “special” medal.)
In what might be the most egregious example of official incompetence, a South Korean fencer was left sobbing in protest on the stage after the clock seemed to freeze in the final moments of her semi-final match last week.
Boxing: A referee from Turkmenistan (Ishanguly Meretnyyazov) was told to pack his bag and leave London after his bizarre performance during a bout between boxers from Japan and Azerbaijan. The boxer from Azerbaijan wound up on the mat six times in the third round, but somehow emerged with a win over his Japanese opponent. Meretnyyazov went so far as to help the Azerbaijan adjust his headgear, at one point. The result of the match was overturned. In a statement posted on its website, the International Amateur Boxing Association said: “Mr. Meretnyyazov is on his way back home.”
Boxing: A German referee was given a five-day forced vacation at the Olympics after he disqualified an Iranian boxer for holding in the second round of a fight against Cuba. It did not go over well with the Iranian boxer, who was left dumbfounded. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Ali Mazaheri told Agence France-Presse. “I thought I was going to win the gold medal here and within a minute I have received three warnings and I was out with my dreams shattered.” Frank Scharmach, the referee, was handed the weeklong suspension.
Field hockey: A language barrier seemed to be the cause of some confusion in a women’s field hockey game between South Africa and New Zealand last week. According a report, the South African coach was upset about the video review process, telling the BBC about an apparent misunderstanding with Russian umpire Elena Eskina. The team was planning to launch a formal complaint after requesting officials review a specific piece of evidence on a New Zealand goal — a request that is reportedly within their right — but the official instead reviewed a different aspect of the replay. The goal stood. South Africa went on to lose by three goals. “It is appalling,” South African coach Giles Bonnet told the BBC. “It is a farce that they scored a goal that is not a goal.”
Water Polo: Swimming’s international governing body has sent two officials home after a late goal was disallowed in a match between Spain and Croatia. Spain appeared to tie the game at 8-8 until the Slovenian referee waved it off. Replays showed the ball had crossed the line entirely. It was a good goal. The crowd erupted in jeers. “The crowd saw that it was a goal,” Spanish player Felipe Perrone Rocha told reporters afterward. “So I feel really bad about it.” Spain appealed. And while swimming’s governing body upheld the result — Croatia held on to win, 8-7 — it announced the Slovenian official would not be working again at these Olympics. Boris Margeta, the banished official, was quoted by TMZ on Tuesday: “It was very bad. After I saw the replay I knew I made a mistake.”
Julio Cortez/The Associated Press
Spain men's water polo coach Daniel Aguilar Morillo, left, and Croatia coach Ratko Rudic, right, talk to officials after Croatia won 8-7 in a controversial ending during a preliminary match at the 2012 Summer Olympics. A shot by Spain's Ivan Perez Vargas entered the net but officials did not count the goal saying regulation time had expired.