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Europe leads way as Taekwondo comes of age - London 2012 - Taekwondo

12 Aug 2012
London 2012, Olympic News, Taekwondo

Taekwondo broke new ground at London 2012, as fighters responded to a new electronic scoring system and video replays with stunning displays in front of packed crowds.

These Games were always going to be a landmark for the martial art, after a new electronic scoring system was introduced for the first time with video replays to make the competition more transparent and fair.

The fighters responded with some stunning displays in front of packed crowds in the 6,000-strong venue, with respect for the new procedures impeccably observed.

For the first time in Olympic Games Taekwondo, it was Europe who led the way, with Spain's Joel Gonzalez Bonilla setting the tone on the opening day in the Flyweight division as he added Olympic gold to his world title, while China's Wu Jingyu was one of the few returning champions to successfully defend their crown in the -49kg.

The home crowd were in full voice on day two as they roared Wales teenager Jade Jones on to gold in the -57kg, as she beat Tseng Li-Cheng of Chinese Taipei, the world number one, and then Chinese fighter Hou Yuzhuo, the 2011 world champion in the final.

Turkey's top seed Servet Tazegul claimed the -68kg crown, before the tournament closed with more European dominance from the Heavyweights as Rome policeman Carlo Molfetta kicked his way to success, awarded on judge's decision after an epic final against Anthony Obame of Gabon.

Milica Mandic, 20, claimed Serbia's first Olympic gold since competing as an independent nation.

For Republic of Korea, though, London 2012 represented the end of their dominance since the martial art became part of the full Olympic Games programme at Sydney 2000.

Hwang Kyung Seon did retain her title in the -67kg division, but Lee Daehoon was beaten to gold by Gonzalez Bonilla.

The Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Cha Dongmin failed to make the Heavyweight medal fights, while Lee In Jong suffered heartache when she was beaten on sudden-death score by Russian Anastasia Baryshnikova in the +67kg bronze contest as for the first time Korea did not return the full complement of four medals.

Obame's silver was, though, a first Olympic medal of any description for Gabon.

Sebastian Eduardo Crismanich's gold at -80kg saw him become Argentina's first Olympic Taekwondo champion - and return the South Americans' only gold from the Games.

Afghan fighter Rohullah Nikpah can, meanwhile, expect another hero's welcome back in Kabul after he beat GB's Martin Stamper in the -68kg bronze-medal contest, to emulate his achievements at Beijing 2008.

There was also a changing of the guard at ExCeL, where Britain's Olympic bronze medallist and two-time world champion Sarah Stevenson went out in the first round, while Beijing 2008 champion Maria del Rosario Espinoza from Mexico had to settle for bronze in the +67kg class.

USA legend Steven Lopez, 33, was unable to collect another Olympic medal from his fourth and probably final Games.

World Taekwondo Federation Secretary General Jean-Marie Ayer is in no doubt of London 2012's place in the history of Olympic Games Taekwondo.

'It really has been an amazing four days of competition,' he said.

'So many countries made history here by getting their first medals in the sport of Taekwondo, and some even their first or only medals of their Games.

'I think it is fair to say that the London 2012 competition has been the best Olympic Taekwondo competition yet - just as we said it would be.

'Anyone who has been here, and heard the noise, and seen the flags will tell you the same thing: the atmosphere has been very, very special.'

The challenge has certainly been set for Taekwondo to raise the bar again at Rio 2016.

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