China’s Zhao Shuai and Kim Sohui of the Republic of Korea won the first two taekwondo golds of Rio 2016 as Olympic and world championship medallists fell one by one and underdogs took centre stage.
Zhao led 3-0 in the first round of the men's -58kg final against Tawin Hanprab of Thailand. Although the Thai fighter closed the gap with a head kick in the second round, Zhao eventually prevailed 6-4 to become the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold in taekwondo.
Zhao was confident that success in Rio would serve as a springboard for further triumphs: “Winning this gold medal means that the future of the Chinese men's taekwondo team can be better and we can get more and more gold medals. It's not my own individual victory, it's a whole team victory. I am very excited and it is still unbelievable.”
Kim Taehun of the Republic of Korea, the -54kg world champion, lost in the round of 16 to Hanprab, but recovered to win a bronze medal through the repechage. The other bronze medal went to Luisito Pie of the Dominican Republic. Iran's Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah, the world champion, and runner-up Si Mohamed Ketbi of Belgium both exited early.
Kim defeats Bogdanovic in women’s -49kg
In the women's -49kg division, Kim Sohui took a 5-2 lead over Tijana Bogdanovic of Serbia after two rounds, but the Serbian caught up in the last round as Kim accumulated penalties. In the final seconds of the bout, with Kim leading 7-6, she fell and could have lost automatically for accumulating a fifth penalty, but the review jury ruled Kim's fall came after the clock had stopped. “I didn't even expect to be the Olympic champion. I really did my best, and I totally feel on cloud nine,” Kim reacted.
China's Wu Jingyu saw her dream of becoming the first taekwondo athlete to win three Olympic golds ended with a quarter-final defeat to Bogdanovic. World champion Panipak Wongpattanakit of Thailand lost in the quarter-finals as well. She rallied back to claim the bronze. Patimat Abakarova of Azerbaijan beat Wu in the repechage on the way to earning the other bronze medal.