Bronze for Stevenson on day of controversy in taekwondo
AUGUST 23 - BRITAIN'S Sarah Stevenson (pictured) won Britain's first-ever Olympic medal in taekwondo when she finished third but the row over judging which has scarred these Games in Beijing came to a violent head today.
There had already been huge controversy in the 67 kg category after officials reversed the result of Stevenson's quater-final match against China's two-time Olympic champion Chen Zhong, who had never lost a bout in the Games.
The 25-year-old from Doncaster was originally declared the loser after judges failed to score her high-kick to the head of Chen which would have given her two points when she was down 1-0 in the closing third round.
Stevenson's managed to contain her disappointment to a few angry words but Cuban Angel Matos expressed his frustration more violently when he kicked the referee in the face following his bronze-medal disqualification.
Matos was winning 3-2, with 62 seconds left in the second round, when he fell to the mat after being hit by his opponent, Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov.
He was sitting there, awaiting medical attention, when he was disqualified for taking too much injury time.
Fighters get one minute, and Matos was disqualified when his time ran out.
Matos angrily questioned the call, pushed a judge, then pushed and kicked referee Chakir Chelbat of Sweden.
Matos then spat on the floor and was escorted out.
Within a few minutes it had been announced that he and his coach, Leudis Gonzalez, had been banned from the sport for life.
Earlier, Stevenson had stormed off the mat angirily claiming she had been "robbed" when a kick to Zhong's face that clearly that television clearly show landed was not scored.
In the stands the screams of anger were led by Aaron Cook, the 17-year-old from Dorchester, who yesterday had claimed he was the victim of biased judging when losing his bronze play-off against Zhu Guo.
The British delegation protested and after an hour of meetings, which included studying the television footage, asking press photographers to supply pictures of the incident and interviewing the judges and referee, the result was reversed.
The turnaround earned Stevenson a semi-final spot but she then lost to Mexico's Maria del Rosario Espinosa but fought through the second-chance tournament of losers to win a bronze 5-1 against Egypt's Noha Abd Rabo.
It was the first time that an Olympic result had been reversed since the high-speed Korean-born martial art made its debut at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Since then, it has been repeatedly embroiled in protests against referees and judges.
The whole day was an embarrassment for taekwondo, which is already fighting to retain its Olympic place and is one of the sports under threat of being kicked out when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote on the competition schedule for the 2016 Games at its Session in Copenhagen in October 2009.
The World Taekwond Federation (WTF) secretary general Yang Jin-Suk said that there would be an investigation into the Stevenson bout.
He said: "We don't have ample time yet to analyse details.
"We'll take proper action against whomever are responsible."
Stevenson claimed that all the controvesy had meant she did not have time to prepare properly for her semi-final.
She said: "I was a little upset.
"Then they said I could fight.
"I didn't have time for mental preparation."
Zhao Lei, the secretary general of the Chinese Taekwondo Federation, said the initial decision was an "obvious mistake."
He said: "And we are the hosting country.
"We wanted to show sporting spirit and we agreed to change the result."
Chinese fans inside the stadium greeted the news with a chorus of boos.
"They're blatantly robbing me of going into the semi-finals," Stevenson had said immediately after the disputed fight.
"There's one thing I hate about this sport is that the judges can control people's lives and can take points away and they can do whatever they want."
Asked if the judges favoured the hometown champion, she replied: "Definitely."
Four judges score points in every match.
Points are given when three of them recognise a valid technique and press a button on their consoles.
Complaints and protests over refereeing and judging have marred the Olympic taekwondo competition since its inauguration in 2000.
The WTF has been increasing the number of judges in a match, improving their skills and developing electronic protective gear for competitors to correctly register kicks and punches.
Stevenson, at least, ended the day happy with the bronze medal she had narrowly missed out on as a 17-year-old in Sydney.
She said: “It means a lot to go through all that and come away with something.
“I’ve been to three Olympic Games and have one medal.
"Even though it’s not the gold I believe I was good enough to win, I’m really pleased with the bronze considering the way the day went.
“If I’m still around in 2012 I’ll definitely be going for gold in London.
"For the past year everything has been focussed on today and I’m looking forward to enjoying this moment and then heading home to relax and go on holiday.”