ATHENS – Makoto Sasamoto lost a controversial ruling to two-time Olympic champion Armen Nazarian of Bulgaria in a second-round qualification match at 60 kg before ending his campaign in Greco-Roman wrestling in fifth place at the Athens Olympics on Thursday.
Sasamoto, who had made a strong start in the first round in a bid to improve on an eighth-place finish in Sydney four years ago, lost the match 5-3 on the points awarded to Nazarian, which could have gone the opposite way with less than 20 seconds left.
Trailing Nazarian by just one point at Ano Liossia Olympic Hall, Sasamoto flipped him in a reverse, but the Bulgarian landed on top of Sasamoto for advantage.
The referee gave the Bulgarian a violation for an illegal hand placement, but that call was later overruled by the mat chairman who awarded two points to Nazarian after watching video footage.
Japanese coach Hideaki Tomiyama was infuriated by the ruling, claiming Nazarian’s hand touched Sasamoto’s thigh in violation of Greco-Roman rules that do not permit holds on the lower part of the body.
Tomiyama, who is prepared to bring the case to the international wrestling body, argued Nazarian’s left hand was placed on Sasamoto’s right leg, causing the Japanese wrestler to fall onto his back when he attempted a reverse throwing technique.
“On the federation’s video, the left hand is hidden,” said Tomiyama. “The referee was in a position to see what happened, but the mat chairman and the judge were not.”
Tomiyama said he will file a complaint and submit more video footage of the scene.
The Japanese wrestler, who also lost to Nazarian in Sydney, argued the ruling to no avail and broke down in tears when the match ended.
Sasamoto later bounced back in a playoff to determine fifth and sixth place with a comfortable 4-0 decision over Nurlan Koizhaiganov of Kazakstan. Nazarian, who lost to South Korean Jung Ji Hyun in the semifinals, went on to win the bronze. Jung beat out Cuba’s Roberto Monzon for gold.