South Korea claim second taekwondo gold as judging debacle continues
SYDNEY Sept 29 - Lee Sun-Hee grabbed South Korea's second taekwondo gold medal at the Sydney Games on Friday but the inaugural Olympic competition in the Korean-born fighting sport presented a genuine international mix.
Lee, the 1996 world junior champion, led all the way from 2-0 in the first round to outclass Norwegian Trude Gundersen 6-3 in the women's under-67kg welterweight final.
In the men's under-80kg welterweight final, Cuba's Angel Valodia Matos Fuentes overcame the death of his mother two weeks ago to whip Faissal Ebnoutalib of Germany.
After a 1-1 tie in the first round, the 23-year-old Cuban earned one point each in the next two rounds to beat the German 3-1 on the penultimate day of the four-day competition.
With Lee's win, South Korea went two for three in their quest for gold. Australia, Greece, the United States and Cuba follow with one each.
They fielded a maximum of two male and two female fighters in the four male and four female weight divisions, under a quota system imposed to balance out medal distribution in the Korean-born sport of kicking and punching.
``I think it's not the strongest who becomes the winner, but it's the one who beats the strongest,'' Lee, a 21-year-old worker at South Korea's leading security firm said philosophically.
The 23-year-old Gundersen simply said, ``Lee was too good for me.''
Japan's Yoriko Okamoto, the 1998 Asian Games bronze medallist, won the bronze by narrowly beating European champion Sarah Stevenson of Britain 6-5.
Stevenson, 17, winner of the 1998 world junior title, has been a favourite among fans as a result of reports Hollywood action star Jackie Chan has offered to fund the British taekwondo team with profits from his latest movie, ``Shanghai Noon.''
But the hoopla extended further.
There were Japanese fans in the stands waving a banner that read ``I love taekwondo'' in English, while the Korean champion said, ``I want every body to love taekwondo.''
Okamoto, 29, practiced the Japanese martial art of karate for 10 years.
But she started to dabble in the Korean sport when she was attending a university in the US state of Oregon because there was no karate training centre there.
``There was a taekwondo school and I was attracted to the sport,'' she said.
The new Olympic men's welterweight champion hoped that his victory would help taekwondo ``take off as a sport in Cuba'' although it has been practiced by ``children to grown-ups.''
``The gold medal means a lot to me and people around me, especially the person I have lost while I was here,'' Matos Fuentes said. His mother, Maria del Carmen Grinan Fuentas, died on September 15, the day the Sydney Olympics opened.
``I came here to achieve my goal and had to overcome the sad news,'' he said.
In the consolation round, Mexico's Victor Manuel Estrada Garibay beat Roman Livaja of Sweden 2-1 to win the bronze medal.
Meanwhile, Olympic taekwondo judges remained under fire for the third straight day with accusations of biased refereeing and Danish fighter Muhammed Dahmani refusing to leave the mat after being beaten.
In a sport known for its rigorous courtesy, Dahmani walked round the mat displaying a two fingered V-sign after he lost to Australian Warren Hansen 6-5 in a men's 80kg contest.
When Dahmani's protest was brought to an end after a few minutes, and he was escorted from the arena by officials, he claimed the judges had favoured local hero Hansen.
But it was only the latest protest of its kind.
On Thursday, the Turkish camp erupted when Hamide Bikcin was beaten 3-2 by June Jae-Eun of South Korea in the women's 57kg featherweight semi-finals.
Judges were also accused of being influenced by the crowd in the first taekwondo session Wednesday when Australian Lauren Burns won the women's 49kg title. - AFP