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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Fencing's Never-Ending Second | Strangest Moments

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Fencing is a noble pursuit.

For a sport that has its roots in medieval score-settling,

controversy is surprisingly rare.

It has featured at every Summer Olympic Games

since the birth of the modern Olympic movement in 1896.

During those years, fencing has stayed largely

out of the spotlight.

As a minority sport where honour and respect are key,

scandal is practically unheard of.

That all changed in 2012.

Before we get to all that,

a quick guide to Olympic fencing.

Epee bouts are the most straightforward type

of fencing contest to watch and referee.

The rules are simple -

the first fencer to hit their opponent,

on any part of their body, earns a point.

After each point, the fencers

return to their "en garde" positions

and they go again.

Whoever has the most points

when time expires is the winner.

If the two fencers hit each other at the same time,

they're both awarded a point.

The exception to this rule is when the scores are tied

and the next hit would win the match.

In these circumstances,

the scores remain the same and the bout restarts.

The women's Epee semifinal in 2012

saw reigning Olympic champion Britta Heidemann

take on South Korea's Shin A-lam.

As we just said, whoever could land the most hits

in the time available would win the bout.

But that's not strictly true. It isn't quite that simple.

Before a sudden-death extra minute starts,

one fencer is randomly assigned "priority",

meaning that in the event of a tie they're awarded the win.

Going into the extra minute Shin A-lam had priority,

so a draw would be enough

for her to progress to the final.

It was cagey.

As they entered the extra minute,

the scores were locked at 5-5.

The priority rule meant

that the onus was on Heidemann to attack.

Shin was in control.

With 24 seconds remaining,

Heidemann went on the offensive.

In the space of 20 seconds, she registered five hits.

Unfortunately for her,

each one was successfully countered by Shin,

resulting in a series of double hits,

none of which registered as points.

Time was running out.

With one second on the clock, it was do-or-die for Heidemann.

Another attempt failed.

She tried again. No luck.

The official clock was still showing one second.

She tried again.

Shin forced another double hit.

Incredibly, the clock still displayed one second.

The fencing clock ticks down

in increments of one full second.

So whether there's one thousandth

of a second remaining or a full second remaining,

the clock will display one second.

But after three Heidemann attacks,

Shin knew that there could only be fractions of a second left.

Victory was in sight.

The referee asked the timekeeper

to ensure that the clock was correct.

The timekeeper misinterpreted this instruction,

and started the clock, which immediately hit zero.

The crowd thought it was all over,

and Shin appeared to have won.

But the bout hadn't officially restarted,

so the elapsed time didn't count.

It was up to the referee to put time back on the clock.

The smallest number that could go on the clock

was a full second.

REFEREE: En garde, s'il vous plait.

It was inaccurate, but she had no choice.

Heidemann had another chance, and she had time to play with.

Shin was distraught.

COACH: One second!

Her coach was furious,

but his protests fell on deaf ears.

It meant there would be another chance for Heidemann,

who wasn't ready to give up her title of Olympic Champion.

REFEREE: En garde. Allez.

It was a clean hit as time expired.

Heartbreak for Shin.

The Koreans launched an appeal.

According to fencing rules,

Shin A-lam could not leave the piste

while the officials analysed the appeal.

She waited. And waited...

And the winner of the second semifinal,

representing Germany,

Britta Heidemann.

Even after the official appeal was rejected,

she remained on the piste in tears,

eventually being escorted off by officials

from the International Fencing Federation.

In total, she was there for 70 heart-breaking minutes.

The image of Shin sat alone on the piste

weeping uncontrollably

became an iconic moment of the 2012 Olympic Games.

And the fans inside the Excel Arena left

knowing that they had witnessed

a bizarre slice of Olympic Games history.

The Description of Fencing's Never-Ending Second | Strangest Moments