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Olympic taekwondo events overshadowed by judgement dispute
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Although officials of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is optimistic with the sport's future in Olympic program, they have to make great efforts to train the judges and improve the scoring system first.

The four-day Olympic taekwondo events ended on Saturday as Cha Dong-min from the taekwondo powerhouse South Korea won the men's +80kg class with a 5-4 victory over Greek Alexandros Nikolaidis, and Mexican player Maria del Rosario Espinoza claimed title in the women's +67kg category, beating Nina Solheim of Norway 3-1.

The men's event bronze was shared by Chika Yagazie Chukwumerije of Nigeria and Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov. The women's event bronze went to British player Sarah Stevenson and Natalia Falavigna of Brazil.

A total of 128 players from 64 NOCs took part in the events, in which South Korea fully demonstrated its strength a home to the martial art by collecting four gold medals, and another 21 NOCs had a taste of the medals.

It seemed to be a strong support to the WTF official's reason for that the sport should be kept in the Games.

Yang Jin-suk, WTF secretary general, said that the sport helped a lot of players from small and poor countries to realize their Olympic medal dreams.

"To keep taekwondo out of the Olympics is killing their dreams and hopes," he told a press conference which was arranged after a dispute over the results of the quarterfinal match between China's veteran Chen Zhong, two-time Olympic champion, and British player Sarah Stevenson.

Chen, who was formerly ruled as winner in the quarterfinal, had her victory overruled as the British team appealed against the judgement.

It's the first time in the Olympic taekwondo history that a result was reversed since the sport was included in the Olympic programs at Sydney Games.

Chen took the lead in the second round with one point, however, Stevenson, Chen's long-time rival, successfully nailed a headshot just one second to go in the third round. The kick wasn't scored after the judge and four corner referees' discussion and they decided Chen as the winner and later the result was reversed after the Competition Supervisory Board reviewed the protest application and the video.

Yang said the human errors cannot be eliminated in current scoring system although the WTF has paid a lot attention to train the judges and referees. He promised the WTF will "maximize our efforts, trying to minimize the errors".

However, the situation just turned worse when less than one hour later, Angel Valodia Matos of Cuba and his coach attacked the judge, who disqualified Matos, 32, from the bronze playoff at the men's +80kg class.

Matos, gold medalist in the men's 80kg class in Sydney, took a lead of 3-2 in the second round when he got injured.

He then sat on the mat to receive medical treatment, which should be limited within one minute according to the competition rules.

The Swedish judge Chakir Chelbat believed that time was up and hence decided that Matos' opponent, Arman Chilmanov from Kazakhstan, won.

Matos' coach rushed onto the mat to argue with the judge and then hit Chelbat with his fist, while the rash athlete attacked the Swede with an axe kick on the head.

The chaos lasted a few seconds until other referees went over to separate the trio. People watching the match stood up in astonishment.

Half an hour later, the announcement came that both of the two received a permanent exclusion from international competitions organized by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). It will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee for final decision.

Actually, the dispute emerged from the first day as some players had disagreement with the results, however, it didn't break out until Friday when legendary player Steven Lopez, who was to fight for his third Olympic champion title in Beijing, lost the men's 80kg class semifinals to Italian Mauro Sarmiento.

Lopez had one point deducted in the third round of the match and finished the regular rounds with a 1-1 tie with Sarmiento. In the golden score duel, Sarmiento scored first and edged out Lopez, four-time world champion, from the final.

The U.S. team filed a protest but it was turned down.

"If this is what taekwondo is about, maybe it should not be in (the Olympics). Or they should fix it," said the outraged head coach Herb Perez on Friday.

Yang said on Saturday after the incident of attacking judge "we will be shutting doors down so that no more athletes are unfairly judged".

"It can be our growing pain. We will overcome all difficulties, we will show the world what the true taekwondo is at the end of the road," he said.

He also disclosed at the press conference that the electronic scoring system, which was put into test use this April at the Asian Championships, is going to be fully adopted in the future.

However, "When and how it will be used is still in questions," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2008)

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