Seasoned Southeast Asian (SEA) Games’ contender Umar Syarief remained unchallenged in his class and won gold for Indonesia on the opening day of the karate competition, which was filled with drama and incidents that saw the Vietnam and Indonesia teams fuming over alleged unfair refereeing.
Indonesia and Vietnam were both dissatisfied with refereeing decisions and accused the judges of siding with their opponents.
In the men’s kata team match, the Indonesian team believed their athletes should have won due to the Malaysian athlete’s “obvious wobble” during his routine. However, the referees unanimously awarded Malaysia a 5:0 score.
In stark contrast, Vietnam’s women’s kata team burst into tears when the lively home crowd applauded their athletes’ 4-1 victory. The Vietnam team said their athletes had demonstrated perfect routines during the competition.
While obviously dissatisfied with the result, one of the Vietnam athletes, Do Thi Thu Ha, said she had no complaint with the result, a sharp contrast to her coach, Cong Le, who simply said: “it’s unfair”.
Indonesia’s team manager Zulkarnain Purba said in an immeasurable sport like karate the referees had the absolute privilege to determine the results.
“Technically we are above the them but it all depend on the referees decision and they [the opponents] seemed to take advantage of that,” said Zulkarnain.
Faizal Zainuddin, who had to settle with a bronze in the men’s individual kata event against host athlete Min Hein Khant, was dissatisfied with the 4-1 score in favor of his opponent.
“If he was really good I would without hesitation admit that but that was not the case,” Faisal said.
“Even common people can see the gap in our technique and routine,” he added, claiming that his Chantanyara Kushanku routine was more advanced than opponent’s Kanku Sho routine.
“We have complained to the referees. You can see that Malaysia’s team kata made four errors during their routine but they won regardless. Thankfully, this all happened on the first day so we hope they can make improvements for tomorrow,” chairman of the Indonesian Karate-do Association Hendardji Supandji said.
Luckily, Indonesia has Umar. Despite his age, he was still able to seize gold, one of seven on offer on the day, in the +84kg kumite event after defeating Theeban Govindasamy of Malaysia.
“It’s all thanks to my experience. Even though I’m old I shall continue to achieve,” said the 36-year-old athlete.
Umar, who has been competing professionally since 1997, said that he was not thinking about retiring yet as there were no athletes who could replace him. “They [opponents] especially Vietnam and Malaysia will be very happy when I retire,” said the multiple SEA Games medalist.
Indonesia won another silver medal through Wiwi Pertiwi in the women’s kumite +68 kilogram class. Meanwhile, Indonesia karate team is eying six gold medals and Hendardji said he remained optimistic about the target with the remaining two-days of competition.
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