Taekwondo at the 2008 Summer Olympics

Taekwondo competitions at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were held from August 20 to August 23 at the Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium. 128 Taekwondo practitioners, 64 men and 64 women, competed in 8 events. For the first time ever two bronze medals were awarded per event.

at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad
Taekwondo 2008.png
VenueBeijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium
DatesAugust 20 to August 23
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Competition formatEdit

The taekwondo competition at the Olympic Games consists of a single elimination tournament. A change has been made as the IOC decided to award two bronze medals in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. However, the repechage system will be maintained and the difference will be that both winners of the respective repechage matches will receive a bronze medal. [1]


Medal summaryEdit

South Korea dominated this competition by winning 4 gold medals in the 4 events they participated. Hadi Saei repeated as champion and along with Steven López, they were the only 2 Taekwondo practitioners who won medal in a streak of 3 Olympics. Chu Mu-Yen and Alexandros Nikolaidis also won a medal for the second time. Rohullah Nikpai became the first Afghan Olympics medalist. Sarah Stevenson finally won a medal in her third Olympics appearance, eliminating two-time gold medalist Chen Zhong in an unprecedented result overturn.

Men's eventsEdit

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Flyweight (58 kg)
Guillermo Pérez
Yulis Gabriel Mercedes
  Dominican Republic
Rohullah Nikpai
Chu Mu-Yen
  Chinese Taipei
Lightweight (68 kg)
Son Tae-jin
  South Korea
Mark Lopez
  United States
Servet Tazegül
Sung Yu-Chi
  Chinese Taipei
Middleweight (80 kg)
Hadi Saei
Mauro Sarmiento
Zhu Guo
Steven López
  United States
Heavyweight (+80 kg)
Cha Dong-Min
  South Korea
Alexandros Nikolaidis
Chika Chukwumerije
Arman Chilmanov

Women's eventsEdit

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Flyweight (49 kg)
Wu Jingyu
Buttree Puedpong
Daynellis Montejo
Dalia Contreras
Lightweight (57 kg)
Lim Su-Jeong
  South Korea
Azize Tanrıkulu
Diana López
  United States
Martina Zubčić
Middleweight (67 kg)
Hwang Kyung-Seon
  South Korea
Karine Sergerie
Gwladys Épangue
Sandra Šarić
Heavyweight (+67 kg)
María del Rosario Espinoza
Nina Solheim
Sarah Stevenson
  Great Britain
Natália Falavigna

Medal tableEdit

1  South Korea (KOR)4004
2  Mexico (MEX)2002
3  China (CHN)1012
4  Iran (IRI)1001
5  United States (USA)0123
6  Turkey (TUR)0112
7  Canada (CAN)0101
  Dominican Republic (DOM)0101
  Greece (GRE)0101
  Italy (ITA)0101
  Norway (NOR)0101
  Thailand (THA)0101
13  Chinese Taipei (TPE)0022
  Croatia (CRO)0022
15  Afghanistan (AFG)0011
  Brazil (BRA)0011
  Cuba (CUB)0011
  France (FRA)0011
  Great Britain (GBR)0011
  Kazakhstan (KAZ)0011
  Nigeria (NGR)0011
  Venezuela (VEN)0011
Totals (22 nations)881632


Daba Modibo Keita of Mali, Deepak Bista of Nepal, Sheikha Maitha Al Maktoum of United Arab Emirates, Nesar Ahmad Bahave of Afghanistan, Miguel Ferrera of Honduras & Bineta Diedhiou of Senegal all have the honor of being taekwondo practitioners to have carried their nation's flag in the opening ceremony.[2]


Result overturningEdit

On August 23 the quarterfinal match in the Women's +67 kg between Sarah Stevenson of Great Britain and China's Chen Zhong, the defending gold medalist from Sydney and Athens, was plagued with controversy. Chen Zhong had led 1-0 through most of the match but 4 seconds before the end, Stevenson landed a clear strike to the face of her opponent. However, only half the judges recorded the hit and thus was not registered, dashing Stevenson's Olympic hopes of gaining her the two points that would have secured her a quick victory. Stevenson's coach was furious and protested to the referee and judges, but initially Zhong was awarded the match. The British team protested for over an hour and on seeing the clear video footage of the strike to the face, unprecedently in the sport of Taekwondo, much to the crowd's dislike, the judges decision was repealed and it was Stevenson who went through to the semi-finals against the Mexican María del Rosario Espinoza.[3] Espinoza, however, secured a clear victory over the unprepared Stevenson and went on to win gold, whilst Stevenson took bronze in the bronze medal match against the Egyptian Noha Abd Rabo.

On announcing the change of result in the quarter final, the tournament director said:

The competition supervisory board has looked into this matter deeply, has made video analysis which has been open to all the referees and judges. In applying paragraph two of page 64 of the competition rules of the World Taekwondo Federation we have to change this result and we have to declare the British player as winner. "We are very sorry to the spectators of China but justice is first. Thank you for understanding."[4]

Match-fixing allegationsEdit

Canadian medal hopeful, Ivett Gonda, lost 2-0 to Sweden's Hanna Zajc on the first day of competition despite Ivett's visible domination of the match. Her coach speculated that it is possible that the judge's scoring machines were possibly broken, he also speculated that another reason could be that the Chinese judge wanted to prevent Gonda from facing the Chinese competitor in the next round (who later easily beat Zajc on her way to the medal).

A protest was sent out and was subsequently denied. Many coaches, not only the Canadian coach, were shocked at the loss.[5]

Referee assaultEdit

The bronze medal match in the men's 80+ kg class saw the gold medallist from Sydney 2000, Ángel Matos, against Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov.[6] After he incurred an injury in the second round of the fight while leading the match 3-2, he subsequently took a Kyeshi.[6] Under World Taekwondo Federation tournament rules, injured competitors are allowed one minute of Kyeshi time, at the end of which the competitor in question must return to the center of the ring to resume the fight, request further time, or forfeit the match.[7] Swedish referee Chakir Chelbat gave a time warning at 40 seconds, but when Kyeshi elapsed without Matos returning to the center,[6] Chelbat ruled Matos had retired.[6]

"To me it was obvious he was unable to continue," Chilmanov told reporters. "His toe on his left foot was broken."[8] After Chilmanov was declared the winner, Matos briefly argued with Chelbat before kicking him in the face, drawing blood from the mouth, then punched a judge in the arm and spat on the arena floor before he and his coach, Leudis González, were escorted from the arena by security.[9][10][11] Given alleged poor judging during the Olympics, which left many competitors raging in injustice, the crowd watching the event chanted "Cuba" and applauded Matos and his coach as they were removed from the arena.[12]

Coach Leudis González said of the referee's initial decision to end the fight, "He was too strict...", and claimed the fight was fixed.[9]

A statement released by the WTF referred to the incident as a "strong violation of the spirit of taekwondo and the Olympic Games". The WTF ordered all of Matos's results from the 2008 Olympics to be deleted from the records, and banned Matos and González from WTF sanctioned events for life.[10][13][14]

Fidel Castro defended Matos by saying he was rightfully indignant over his disqualification from the bronze-medal match. "I saw when the judges blatantly stole fights from two Cuban boxers in the semifinals," Castro wrote. "Our fighters ... had hopes of winning, despite the judges, but it was useless. They were condemned beforehand."[15]

Great Britain's postal service Royal Mail released a stamp in 2010 commemorating taekwondo's inclusion in the London 2012 Olympic Games,[16] and it is debated that the illustration may be based on a widely circulated photo of Ángel Matos kicking referee Chakir Chelbat.[17][18]

Allegations of mismanagement and intimidationEdit

An incident in the men's 80 kg competition may prove to have a more lasting impact on the sport. American Steven López, the two-time defending gold medalist in that class who had not lost a match since 2002, had one point taken away by the referee in the third period of his quarterfinal match against Italy's Mauro Sarmiento. The referee determined that Lopez had used an illegal "cut kick" (blocked an opponent's blow below the waist). The deduction turned Lopez' 2–1 lead to a 1–1 tie, and Lopez lost in sudden-death overtime. Team USA's team leader, Herb Perez, unsuccessfully protested the decision, asserting that Lopez had raised his left leg in defense and Sarmiento had kicked into the leg in an attempt to draw the deduction.[19]

In the wake of the decision, Perez leveled serious charges against the sport's governing body, the World Taekwondo Federation:[19]

  • He claimed that the protest was not properly handled. Typically, decisions on protests must be made within 15 minutes. No response was made for 45 minutes.
  • He also stated that the US team received no indication why the protest was deemed "unacceptable". According to Perez, "Unacceptable could mean anything from we didn’t file the papers properly to we didn’t use the right color pencil... Under the WTF competition rules, we should have been notified about the decision, the criteria, the methodology used, what evidence was presented, and what referees were reviewing it. We were not."
  • Perez also said that at a June 2008 conference, the heads of the 25 teams that were to compete in Beijing were asked to sign an agreement not to file any protests at the Games.
  • After his protest was denied, Perez alleged that WTF officials approached him and asked him not to talk to the press.

Charles Robinson, a writer for Yahoo! Sports in the US, called the events surrounding Lopez' match "a chaotic episode that might ultimately prove to be the tipping point to Olympic doom", adding that it had been widely rumored that taekwondo was on the brink of being removed from the Olympic program.[19]


  1. ^ [1] Archived 2008-12-11 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "List of flagbearers Beijing 2008" (PDF). Multimedia.olympic.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-08-08. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  3. ^ "BBC SPORT | Taekwondo | Taekwondo improves judging system". BBC News. 2009-10-14. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  4. ^ Andrew White (23 August 2008). "British fighter wins bronze after chaotic scenes". Northern Echo. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Judging questioned after Canada's Gonda loses 1st taekwondo matchaccessyear=2008". CBC. 2008. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d "Cuban banned after assault on referee". The Guardian. London. 2008-08-24. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  7. ^ "main - World Taekwondo Federation". Wtf.org. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  8. ^ "Cuban athlete is barred for kicking referee's face". The New York Times. 2008-08-24. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  9. ^ a b "Cuban attacks judge after losing bronze in taekwondo". AFP/Fox. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  10. ^ a b Talmadge, Eric (2008-08-23). "Cuban taekwondo athlete banned after kicking ref". AP/Google. Archived from the original on 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  11. ^ "Kicked out: Cuban banned for life". NBC Sports. August 23, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  12. ^ "Poor Judging Hurts Taekwondo". Koreatimes.co.kr. 2008-08-24. Archived from the original on 2016-08-03. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  13. ^ Ransom, Ian (2008-08-23). "Cuban banned for referee kick". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-08-24.
  14. ^ "Cuban Taekwondo champ faces ban for kicking Olympic ref in head". Bloomberg. 2008-08-23.
  15. ^ "Fidel Castro Defends Ángel Matos' Actions". CNN. Archived from the original on August 31, 2008.
  16. ^ "London 2012 stamps released by Royal Mail to mark two years to the Olympic and Paralympic games". The Daily Telegraph. 2010-07-22.
  17. ^ [2][dead link]
  18. ^ "Taekwondo Stamp Faux Pas! - Популярные статьи - Библиотека международной спортивной информации". Bmsi.ru. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  19. ^ a b c Robinson, Charles (2008-08-22). "Lopez takes fight to taekwondo federation". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2008-08-23.

External linksEdit