And India has another medal at the Tokyo Olympics. It could be gold, or silver, but at least it will be bronze. How is that, you may ask. Well, boxer Lovlina Borgohain has reached the semi-finals of the women’s welterweight contest in Tokyo, which is enough to guarantee a medal. While the nation hopes that the boxer from Assam will reap gold in Tokyo, here’s how just making the penultimate round assures a boxing medal at the Olympics.
What Happens After A Boxing Quarter Final At Olympics?
The top-three finishers in any sporting discipline or event at the Olympics make the medal places — gold, silver, and bronze, in that order. For most sports that have head-to-head contests, the two semi-final winners compete in the finals for the gold and silver medals, while a third-place, or bronze medal match, is held between the two losing semi-finalists. Not so in boxing, however.
In boxing, the contenders that end up second-best in the two semi-finals automatically receive bronze medals without needing to fight for a third-place finish. Thus, in boxing events, two bronze medals are given along with a gold and silver. But it has not always been like that.
Till the 1948 Olympics, which was held in London, the losing boxing semi-finalists had to fight in a third-place playoff match with the winner taking bronze. However, that rule was discontinued at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where the third-place tie was dropped altogether. And with it, the bronze medal itself, the losing semi-finalists being conferred with what is known as an Olympics Diploma. But at the next Games, Melbourne 1956, the rule was again changed. It was decided that both losing semi-finalists would get a bronze medal each, and that has been the practice since then.
Is Boxing The Only Olympic Sport With Two Bronze Medals?
No, the combat sports like wrestling and taekwondo, too, hand out two bronze medals for the two losing semi-finalists. However, in these sports, there is a repechage system that decides who the two bronze medallists will be, which is not the case with boxing.
While an official explanation for two boxing bronzes may be lacking, experts suggest that the reason why boxing has done away with the third-place match is because of the bruising nature of the contests and the packed schedule spread over a matter of days at an Olympic Games. The understanding, reports say, is that after losing in a semi-final, and possibly ending up the worse for wear of the two contestants, a boxer may not always be in the best position, physically and mentally, to compete in a third-place match. Thus, it is perceived to be simpler to just award two bronze medals.
What Is The Repechage Round?
It’s a word that should be well-known among Indian sports lovers, given that three of the country’s medallists in wrestling — Sushil Kumar (2008 Beijing, he also won the silver at London 2012), Yogeshwar Dutt (2012 London) and Sakshi Malik (2016 Rio de Janeiro) — had to win their repechage matches to achieve Olympic glory.
‘Repechage’ has roots in French and means to ‘fish out’, or ‘rescue’. Applied to an Olympic sport, it means giving a losing participant another shot at a medal finish. Apart from the likes of wrestling and taekwondo, repechage is held in baseball, softball, beach volleyball, cycling, fencing, rowing, rugby, sailing, track and field athletics and martial arts like karate and judo.
According to Olympics organisers, repechage is “a practice in series competitions that allows participants who failed to meet qualifying standards by a small margin to continue to the next round”. In sports that follow the single-elimination principle — that is, the winner moves to the next round — to determine the two finalists, the losing participants are allowed to compete in the repechage rounds.
Take the case of wrestling. Only the wrestlers who lose in the pre-quarterfinals or later qualify for the repechage. However, “it should be noted that the wrestler can revive themselves only if the opponent they lost to reaches the final”. Further, such contestants can only compete for the bronze medal. So, instead of the third-place match being contested among the two losing semi-finalists, they take on the wrestlers who come through the repechage rounds. Hence, there are two bronze medals that are given out.