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Dutch judoka scores points battling bottle-tosser

A bottle lands on the track behind Justin Gatlin of the U.S. and Yohan Blake of Jamaica after being thrown from the crowd at the start in the men’s 100-metres final on Sunday.

Martin Meissner/AP

When Dutch judoka Edith Bosch scored prime seats to watch the men's 100-metres final at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, she was ecstatic.

"I got a ticket in the second row and I was like 'Yes!'" she said Monday. "Like any other sports fan I was enjoying a fantastic night in the Olympic Stadium and we're all waiting for the main event, the 100-metres."

As the sprinters lined up, a man moved into the row in front of Bosch and starting acting strange. "The guy was trying to get the athletes out of their concentration," she said.

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Bosch kept her focus on the pending race, tense with anticipation.

Just as the sprinters crouched in their blocks and waited for the gun, the man allegedly threw an empty plastic Heineken beer bottle on to the track.

It landed behind the runners, not hitting anyone, but causing a startle among some fans.

Bosch reacted. Now, keep in mind she's a three-time Olympic medalist in judo and had just won a bronze in the 70-kilogram class in London. She is also famous in the Netherlands for outspokenness. So what did she do?

"I pushed him away, hard, and said, 'Dude, what are you doing? Are you crazy?'" she said. "I was flabbergasted and angry."

She insisted she didn't use judo, but when she demonstrated her shove on a Dutch team official, he nearly fell over.

"I just corrected the guy as a normal person, as anybody else would have done," she said with a smile as the Dutch official reclaimed his balance.

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Even worse, she didn't get to see the race and watch Usian Bolt fly down the track in 9.63 seconds, obliterating one of the best fields ever assembled with the second-fastest time in history.

"The one thing I'm most sad about is due to all the commotion and due to this guy, I missed out on the 100-metres," she said with a frown. "I could ask Usain Bolt to run it again, but I don't think he's going to do it."

Bosch was still furious Monday, saying the man she confronted not only ruined her evening but showed complete disrespect to athletes. "I cannot understand that somebody could do such a thing," she said.

Her story has become a sensation in London. And she won support from Sebastian Coe, who heads the organizing committee for the London Games and was outraged at the man's conduct.

"I'm not suggesting vigilantism but it was actually poetic justice that he did happen to be sitting next to a judo player," he said Monday.

"I think the expression is ippon," he added, referring to the judo equivalent of a take down.

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Police have arrested Ashley Gill-Webb, a 34-year-old father of two, and charged him with "intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress."

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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