In a dramatic turn of events at the Asian Games, South Korean judo athlete Lee Hye-kyeong faced disqualification from a semi-final match after a face slap incident that captured the attention of sports enthusiasts worldwide.
The 27-year-old Lee had a promising journey in the women’s 48kg tournament, having triumphed over Qurbonzoda Madina of Tajikistan in the round of 16 and Mongolia’s Bavuudorj Baasankhuu in the quarterfinals.
However, her semi-final clash against Kazakhstan’s Abiba Abuzhakynova took a controversial turn. With the scoreboard still reading 0-0 and only two minutes into the match, Lee was seen delivering a slap across Abuzhakynova’s face. The Kazakhstani judoka initially turned away in pain and then fell to the ground, clutching her face while showing visible distress.
A concerned Lee immediately approached her opponent, placing a hand on her back, but the damage had already been done. The referee promptly asked Lee to step away, leaving coaches and spectators bewildered.
Amidst the confusion, Abuzhakynova, who displayed visible discomfort, stood up, revealing a scratch under her left eye. After some time, she returned to the mat to assume her position, but Lee received a red card, sealing her disqualification.
Lee’s disqualification meant she no longer had the opportunity to contend for a bronze medal in the play-off. The other losing semi-finalist, Uzbekistan’s Kurbonova Khalimajon, claimed the bronze by default.
Ultimately, Abuzhakynova proceeded to the final, where she faced defeat against Japan’s Natsumi Tsunoda, who secured Japan’s first gold medal at the 2023 Asian Games.
The incident involving Lee’s face slap garnered significant attention on social media platforms, particularly among Chinese netizens. Opinions on whether the slap was intentional or accidental varied widely, sparking extensive discussions.
One Weibo user expressed, “As a professional athlete, there is no way she would do this on purpose. I think it was just a slip. Her opponent’s reaction is also way over the top.”
The incident serves as a reminder of the intense competition and emotional highs and lows that accompany major sporting events like the Asian Games.
Disclaimer: This article does not take a stance on whether the slap was intentional or accidental and presents opinions from Chinese netizens for informational purposes.