A new rule preventing one country winning all three medals in any event here at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo has been introduced as a compromise to ensure higher participation, insidethegames has been told.
Under the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) rule, if one country finishes first, second and third in a specific event, the result will still stand but the bronze medal will go to the highest placed athlete from another nation.
According to OCA Sports Director Haider Farman, the rule was implemented following a request from International Federations to ensure there would be a sufficient number of athletes competing in each event.
At other OCA events such as the summer Asian Games, only two athletes from each country can feature in a specific event.
The no clean sweeps rule was proposed as a compromise at a Chefs de Mission meeting last year.
“The IFs wanted more athletes but we wanted to ensure there weren’t clean sweeps,” Farman told insidethegames.
“Having the same countries winning all the medals would kill the Games.
“Everyone understands this and the rule has been accepted.”
So far, the rule has come into effect three times during the current edition of the Games.
In speed skating, Japan finished in the top four positions in the women's 1,500 metre to mean fifth placed Olympic 1,000m champion Zhang Hong of China took bronze.
In short track yesterday, South Korea swept the top three positions in the men's 1,000m final to leave fourth placed Keita Watanabe of Japan in the final podium position.
During today's women's giant slalom, Kang Seo-young took South Korean bronze after finish behind three Japanese Alpine skiers.
It follows a similar but different rule at previous editions wherein an additional bronze medal would be given when a clean sweep occurred.
At the Changchun 2007 Games, a Chinese sweep of the top four positions in the men's aerials event meant that third placed Liu Zhongqing shared bronze with fifth ranked Kotaro Kurata of Japan.
The same thing happened in the corresponding women's event, where China's Zhang Xin shared bronze with fifth placed Ünenbatyn Maral of Mongolia.
However, only the non-Chinese athletes appeared on the podium.
With Australians competing as guests in Sapporo and unable to win medals, the rule also means athletes finishing outside of the top six securing a podium place potentially.
This has been a problem in other sports due to stricter limitations on numbers in each event.
In sailing a rule limiting each country to one athlete in each event meant that Britain's Giles Scott was unable to compete in the finn class at the London 2012 Olympics despite being the reigning world champion.
This was due to the selection of two-time defending champion and eventual winner, Ben Ainslie.
Scott did bounce back to win finn gold on his Olympic debut at Rio 2016.
A similar rule has been introduced in swimming events including the European Championships, which stipulates countries can enter four athletes, but only two can progress beyond the heats.
It was justified on the grounds it allows more athletes to gain championship experience while also providing an opportunity to register qualifying times for other events.