Explaining `repechage’, the French word that won Sushil a bronze

August 20th, 2008 - 7:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 20 (IANS) Sushil Kumar’s bronze medal may well make ‘repechage’ the new buzzword in Indian sport.The 66-kg freestyle wrestler, who lost his first bout in the round of 16, went through three repechage contests to win India’s first bronze in wrestling since 1952. It was also the first time since 1952 that India have won two medals at the same Olympics. Back in 1952, India won a hockey gold and a bronze in wrestling through Kashaba Jadhav.

What is a repechage?

Repechage is a French word, which means to “to rescue” or “to save”. Applied in sport, it gives participants who fail at the first level or often subsequent levels, a second chance to stay on in the competition to attain laurels.

In track events of athletics, the best competitors in each heat automatically qualify for the next round. Other competitors with the best timings may also qualify for the next round indirectly as “fastest losers” as a result of the ‘repechage’.

If a particular heat was significantly faster than the others, the ‘repechage’ spots can all be taken by athletes from that heat.

In karate, judo, taekwondo and wrestling tournaments, single elimination brackets - also called knock-out format - are used to determine the two participants who will compete for the gold and silver.

The repechage bracket is arrived at by selecting all of the athletes who were knocked out by the two finalists on way to the title round.

Repechage system is used basically to eliminate the possibility of a top competitor (strong or ranked) bowing out in the early round by losing against another leading player because of the luck of the draw. This allows the loser a chance to compete for a bronze medal.

Repechage is also used in rowing, canoeing and kayaking. This is done because in these events, conditions such as wind may vary between the heats. This could affect a competitor’s time and therefore a rowing repechage allows the “fastest losers” to qualify independent of the variable conditions in the opening heats.

A repechage heat is also used occasionally in cycling. Repechage was formerly used in fencing tournaments also.

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