After A Referee's Crucial Call Giving No Point, Ukraine Beats China

BEIJING, China -- Italian referee Marco Siesto turned around with a big grin on his face. Both fencers were a point from the gold medal, and each appeared to have landed a hit.

Olga Kharlan of Ukraine (R), in action against Tan Xue of China on Thursday. Kharlan won 45-44.

All eyes were on Siesto - and he was going to think this over a bit.

Siesto checked the video replay. He contemplated. He paced. Then he contemplated some more.

Finally, he returned to the strip and announced ... no point for either athlete.

On they went - Ukraine's Olga Kharlan and China's Tan Xue - for one more agonizing point. Then at last, Kharlan scored a touch, giving her team a 45-44 win and the Olympic

"At 44-44, I wasn't nervous at all," Kharlan said. "I knew how to set the hit and I did it."

Kharlan scored nine of the bout's last 13 points, completing a sensational Ukrainian comeback. In team events, three fencers for each team rotate over nine rounds, so it's hard for one athlete to dominate. Kharlan did, winning 22 of her team's points - and 21 of Ukraine's last 30.

With the bout tied at 44, both fencers came together at the same time, forcing Siesto to consult the video monitor. The referee must occasionally determine who has the "right of way" when both fencers land hits. The fencer who first started to attack receives the point, but if there is a simultaneous attack, no points are granted.

Siesto gave neither athlete the point. Tan then moved toward Kharlan, and again each fencer appeared to land a hit. This time Siesto ruled quickly and decisively. Tan's attack had failed. Point - and the gold medal - to Kharlan.

"I knew Olga would make the last point," Ukraine's Olena Khomrova said. "She's used to doing it and she did it."

Ukraine trailed 25-15 when Kharlan came on for the second of her three rounds. A round ends when one team reaches the next multiple of five - in this case 30. Kharlan outscored Bao Yingying 12-5, so China led only 30-27 after the round.

When Kharlan came out for the final round, China led 40-36.

China settled for the silver medal. The United States took the bronze. The U.S. featured all three individual medalists in women's saber but was upset by Ukraine in the semifinals

Source: International Herald Tribune