Three weeks ago, Croatian taekwondo player Ivana Babic did not know if she would be ready to compete at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Two years ago Edival Marques Quirino Pontes (BRA) thought about quitting the sport. On Tuesday Babic and Pontes added a Youth Olympic gold medal to their collection.
Victory did not come easy to Pontes. In a nerve-racking men’s -63kg final, the Brazilian overcame Jose Ruben Nava Rodriguez (MEX) 7-6. Pontes led narrowly in the third round, then Nava Rodriguez caught up and levelled the score at 6-6 with two seconds to go. But Pontes delivered the decisive kick in the last second to clinch the gold medal.
Twenty-four months ago the Brazilian teen had considered quitting the sport after failing to make the National A team for two consecutive years. “It was so difficult, I was so young and did not know what it is like to lose,” he said. But he fought back, made the team in 2013 and his career has picked up ever since.
Early birthday present for Babic
Babic also enjoyed an evening of vindication after recent struggles. “I don’t know how I did it,” she said. “I got injured at the world [junior] championships [in March], I broke my leg. I could not train for two months and was able to really train normally only for two, three weeks.”
The 1.85m-tall Croatian made use of her height advantage in the women’s -55kg competition, holding off her opponents or delivering head kicks in the quarter and semi-final. However, her final opponent, Fatma Saridogan of Turkey, held her ground. The world junior bronze medallist was quick on her feet to avoid Babic’s attacks, but eventually lost on penalties. Babic, who will turn 17 on August 26, had earned herself a nice early birthday present.