Death of Kungfu fighter Shangguan Pengfei raises concern over free combat
Officials from China's sports authority said the death of domestic athlete Shangguan Pengfei was not a result of untimely treatment or defective management by the industry, during a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
Shangguan, who went into a coma after being knocked out by a blow to the back of his head during the semifinals of the national free combat championship held in Haikou, Hainan province, on Oct 31, died on Monday at the age of 23.
According to Chinese media, Shangguan's family had asked he be transferred to a better hospital when he became stable in mid-November, but staff from the organizing committee refused to pay for medical expenses outside of Haikou.
Shangguan's situation wasn't exposed until his girlfriend called for help on her micro-blog on Dec 3.
Free combat, or wushu, is a full-contact martial art. It was an exhibition sport at the Beijing Olympics.
Gao Xiaojun, chief of the sport's administrative center, said the organization of the game was up to standards and Shangguan received timely care after the accident.
"We made timely and effective arrangements after the athlete got injured. Without adequate preparation and measures, it would've been impossible to send the athlete to the hospital within six minutes," Gao said. "The boy has fought with death for more than 40 days, which is a miracle created with the effort of all aspects.
"Our colleagues were alongside the athletes' relatives 24 hours a day, and there was no problem with the medical fee. We have met all the requirements of his family," Gao said. "It's a pity that we finally failed to save the young life, but we have a clear conscience for what we have done.
"Shangguan's death is the first time (an athlete died) in free combat matches in more than 30 years. It's an accident, but we will learn from it to avoid another occurrence of the tragedy," he said.
It was also reported Shangguan had been knocked out in the months before the event and shouldn't have been eligible to join the tournament in Haikou. According to international regulations, athletes knocked out by opponents are not allowed to fight again for three to six months.
Zhao Jun of the Henan Sports Bureau said Shangguan hadn't been knocked out or knocked down in any matches or trainings for at least a year. He said Shangguan's family will be paid 300,000 yuan ($47,000), and will receive other compensation, but didn't specify how much.
Shangguan's death put free combat athletes at the center of public attention.
Zhang Tiequan, the first Chinese to join the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) , once told the Bandao Morning Post that athletes would receive careful examination before international matches, including tests of their heart, lung and eyes, a urinalysis, a blood test and an electrocardiogram. Athletes in China only receive an electrocardiogram and an electroencephalogram.
The paper also reported that the first aid system in China was not adequate.
According to the newspaper, each tournament should be prepared with at least two ambulances and four doctors, but most domestic tournaments only have one or two doctors.
Moreover, the paper said most of the athletes don't know how much insurance the organizer has paid for.
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