Taekwondo at the 2008 Summer Olympics
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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
|Venue||Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium|
|Dates||August 20 to August 23|
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. 
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.
|Flyweight (58 kg)
|Yulis Gabriel Mercedes
|Lightweight (68 kg)
|Middleweight (80 kg)
|Heavyweight (+80 kg)
|Flyweight (49 kg)
|Lightweight (57 kg)
|Middleweight (67 kg)
|Heavyweight (+67 kg)
||María del Rosario Espinoza
|1||South Korea (KOR)||4||0||0||4|
|5||United States (USA)||0||1||2||3|
|Dominican Republic (DOM)||0||1||0||1|
|13||Chinese Taipei (TPE)||0||0||2||2|
|Great Britain (GBR)||0||0||1||1|
|Totals (22 nations)||8||8||16||32|
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.
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. 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."
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.
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. After he incurred an injury in the second round of the fight while leading the match 3-2, he subsequently took a Kyeshi. 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. Swedish referee Chakir Chelbat gave a time warning at 40 seconds, but when Kyeshi elapsed without Matos returning to the center, Chelbat ruled Matos had retired.
"To me it was obvious he was unable to continue," Chilmanov told reporters. "His toe on his left foot was broken." 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. 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.
Coach Leudis González said of the referee's initial decision to end the fight, "He was too strict...", and claimed the fight was fixed.
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.
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."
Great Britain's postal service Royal Mail released a stamp in 2010 commemorating taekwondo's inclusion in the London 2012 Olympic Games, and it is debated that the illustration may be based on a widely circulated photo of Ángel Matos kicking referee Chakir Chelbat.
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.
- 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.
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