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2019-05-20 08:53:08  + video 

“It’s not how I wanted it to go, but a win is a win,” British fighter Bianca Walkden told the BBC after Friday’s final of the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester.

Walkden’s comment followed a controversial decision that proclaimed her the victor over Zheng Shuyin of China: With a commanding 20-10 lead late in the match, Zheng committed her 10th foul, leading to her disqualification by referee Tarik Benradi. In the aftermath of the contest, netizens in China and elsewhere took issue with both the referee’s foul calls and Walkden’s aggressive fighting style, which repeatedly forced Zheng off the mat and afoul of the sport’s rules.

“This is the darkest day in the taekwondo world,” commented one netizen on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo under a video dissecting eight supposedly questionable foul calls made during the bout. “The championship rightfully belongs to Zheng Shuyin, it should be returned to her. How much (money) did the referee receive?”

China’s national taekwondo team has appealed the result of the World Taekwondo Championships final, which took place May 17 in Manchester, England. While leading 20-10 late in the match, Zheng Shuyin of China was disqualified after incurring her 10th foul, giving her opponent, Bianca Walkden of England, the victory and prompting a chorus of boos from the spectators present. By Lu Yunwen/Sixth Tone

Below a tweet Walkden posted in celebration of her third world championship, some netizens pointed out that the British fighter was booed by the home crowd as she took the podium, while others criticized her “dirty” fighting style, snidely congratulating her on winning the World Sumo Championships for trying to force her opponent out of the ring. Still other netizens praised Walkden for coming up with a strategy that would allow her to win after she had fallen behind early.

Walkden’s victory by disqualification in the 73-kilogram weight class wasn’t popular with the spectators in attendance. As the two athletes took the podium to a chorus of boos and jeers, Walkden covered her face and cried, while Zheng sat on the runner-up platform wailing with her back to the winner. After the unorthodox ceremony, Walkden insisted she had simply done what she needed to win, telling the BBC, “I’m now a three-time world champion, which they can’t take away from me.”

Zheng’s coach, however, doesn’t see the same finality in the matter. On Sunday, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported that Guan Jianmin — who is also the president of the Chinese Taekwondo Federation — said an appeal had been filed with World Taekwondo, the sport’s governing body.

“We made two requests in the appeal. Firstly, the decision should be overturned. Secondly, the referee should be banned for life,” Guan told Xinhua. “It is not simply a mistake because everyone makes mistakes. His decision is destructive to the fair and just competitive environment for taekwondo. This is the biggest problem.”

Chinese fighter Zheng Shuyin walks off the mat distraught after being disqualified in the title bout against England’s Bianca Walkden at the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester, England, May 17, 2019. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images/VCG

Chinese fighter Zheng Shuyin walks off the mat distraught after being disqualified in the title bout against England’s Bianca Walkden at the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester, England, May 17, 2019. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images/VCG

Zheng, meanwhile, did not lash out but rather expressed regret for not having captured the gold medal for her teammates and country. “From the first day I picked up this sport, I understood that there was no such thing as absolute fairness in competition,” she told CCTV, China’s state broadcaster. “I have been doing this sport for 16 years, but this is the first time I have realized that a taekwondo match could be played like this.”

Prior to announcing the Chinese team’s appeal, Guan the coach called Walkden’s victory a “scandal” in an interview with Xinhua. “Our athlete has worked very hard for this gold medal, and it was taken away so easily by the referee,” Guan said. “This is very dirty.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Zheng Shuyin of China cries after finishing runner-up in the women’s 73-kilogram weight class at the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester, England, May 17, 2019. Chloe Knott/Getty Images/VCG)