(L-R) Bronze medalists Paige McPherson of the US and Germany’s Helena Fromm, gold medalist South Korea’s Hwang Kyung-seon and silver medalist Turkey’s Nur Tatar pose at the women’s -67kg taekwondo victory ceremony during the London Olympic Games Friday. — Reuters
LONDON – South Korea and Argentina won Olympic taekwondo gold medals Friday in two dramatically different finals.
In the women’s 67-kg division, Hwang Kyung-seon defended the title she first won at the Beijing Games by beating Nur Tatar of Turkey 12-5 in an action-packed final where both fighters were on the attack from the start.
On the men’s side, Sebastian Crismanich of Argentina won the country’s first gold of the London Games in the 80-kg.
In Hwang’s bout, both fighters landed head kicks nearly simultaneously within the opening 12 seconds before Hwang took control, nailing Tatar with several more body and head shots.
The 26-year-old two-time world champion Hwang previously won a bronze in Athens and became the first woman to win three Olympic taekwondo medals.
Hwang used her speed and flexibility to dominate all of her matches on Friday. She said there was pressure on the Korean team to bring home gold medals since the martial art was developed there. Until Hwang’s win, Lee Dae-hoon’s silver in the men’s 58-kilogram division on Wednesday was the country’s only medal.
“It feels like flying,” Hwang said afterwards. “I’ve done something special for the country and it makes me very proud.”
The bronze medals were won by Paige McPherson of the US and Germany’s Helena Fromm.
Crismanich defeated Spain’s Nicolas Garcia in a cautious final where both fighters seemed reluctant to attack. Crismanich ultimately managed to land a body shot with eight seconds remaining to win 1-0.
Crismanich, 26, won the Pan-American championships last year, but the gold was his first Olympic medal.
In most of his matches Friday, Crismanich was on the attack early, catching his opponents off guard with a rapid succession of body shots and head kicks.
Several of the division’s top seeds made an early exit, including five-time world champion American Steven Lopez, Iran’s world champion Yousef Karami and top seed Ramin Azizov of Azerbaijan.
Lopez’s sister later said on Twitter that her brother had a broken fibula.
And the world No. 1, Britain’s Aaron Cook was conspicuously absent after UK officials refused to choose him for the team. Cook said he felt cheated and was being punished for his decision to leave the national training program.
Instead of Cook, British officials picked Lutalo Muhammad, ranked 59.
Muhammad later won a bronze. Italy’s Mauro Sarmiento won the other bronze, performing an impromptu victory dance afterwards where he swayed as if rocking a baby.
He dedicated the medal to his daughter and then helped the man he just defeated — an injured Nesar Bahawi of Afghanistan — off the mat. — AP