Taekwondo at the 2008 Summer Olympics

at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad
VenueBeijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium
DatesAugust 20 to August 23

Taekwondo competitions at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were held from August 20 to August 23 at the Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium. 128 Taekwondo practitioners, 64 men and 64 women, competed in 8 events. For the first time ever two bronze medals were awarded per event.

Competition format

Taekwondo at the
2008 Summer Olympics
Men Women
  58 kg     49 kg  
  68 kg     57 kg  
  80 kg     67 kg  
  +80 kg     +67 kg  

The taekwondo competition at the Olympic Games consists of a single elimination tournament. A change has been made as the IOC decided to award two bronze medals in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. However, the repechage system will be maintained and the difference will be that both winners of the respective repechage matches will receive a bronze medal. [1]


Medal summary

South Korea dominated this competition by winning 4 gold medals in the 4 events they participated. Hadi Saei repeated as champion and along with Steven López, they were the only 2 Taekwondo practitioners who won medal in a streak of 3 Olympics. Chu Mu-Yen and Alexandros Nikolaidis also won a medal for the second time. Rohullah Nikpai became the first Afghan Olympics medalist. Sarah Stevenson finally won a medal in her third Olympics appearance, eliminating two-time gold medalist Chen Zhong in an unprecedented result overturn.

Men's events

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Flyweight (58 kg)
Guillermo Pérez
Yulis Gabriel Mercedes
 Dominican Republic
Rohullah Nikpai
Chu Mu-Yen
 Chinese Taipei
Lightweight (68 kg)
Son-Tae Jin
 South Korea
Mark Lopez
 United States
Servet Tazegül
Sung Yu-Chi
 Chinese Taipei
Middleweight (80 kg)
Hadi Saei
Mauro Sarmiento
Zhu Guo
Steven López
 United States
Heavyweight (+80 kg)
Cha Dong-Min
 South Korea
Alexandros Nikolaidis
Chika Chukwumerije
Arman Chilmanov

Women's events

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Flyweight (49 kg)
Wu Jingyu
Buttree Puedpong
Daynellis Montejo
Dalia Contreras
Lightweight (57 kg)
Lim Su-Jeong
 South Korea
Azize Tanrıkulu
Diana López
 United States
Martina Zubčić
Middleweight (67 kg)
Hwang Kyung-Seon
 South Korea
Karine Sergerie
Gwladys Épangue
Sandra Šarić
Heavyweight (+67 kg)
Maria Espinoza
Nina Solheim
Sarah Stevenson
 Great Britain
Natália Falavigna

Medal table

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  South Korea (KOR) 4 0 0 4
2  Mexico (MEX) 2 0 0 2
3  China (CHN) 1 0 1 2
4  Iran (IRI) 1 0 0 1
5  United States (USA) 0 1 2 3
6  Turkey (TUR) 0 1 1 2
7  Canada (CAN) 0 1 0 1
 Dominican Republic (DOM) 0 1 0 1
 Greece (GRE) 0 1 0 1
 Italy (ITA) 0 1 0 1
 Norway (NOR) 0 1 0 1
 Thailand (THA) 0 1 0 1
13  Chinese Taipei (TPE) 0 0 2 2
 Croatia (CRO) 0 0 2 2
15  Afghanistan (AFG) 0 0 1 1
 Brazil (BRA) 0 0 1 1
 Cuba (CUB) 0 0 1 1
 France (FRA) 0 0 1 1
 Great Britain (GBR) 0 0 1 1
 Kazakhstan (KAZ) 0 0 1 1
 Nigeria (NGR) 0 0 1 1
 Venezuela (VEN) 0 0 1 1
Total 8 8 16 32


Daba Modibo Keita of Mali, Deepak Bista of Nepal, Sheikha Maitha Al Maktoum of United Arab Emirates, Nesar Ahmad Bahave of Afghanistan, Miguel Ferrera of Honduras & Bineta Diedhiou of Senegal all have the honor of being taekwondo practitioners to have carried their nation's flag in the opening ceremony.[2]


Result overturning

On August 23 the quarterfinal match in the Women's +67 kg between Sarah Stevenson of Great Britain and China's Chen Zhong, the defending gold medalist from Sydney and Athens, was plagued with controversy. Chen Zhong had led 1-0 through most of the match but 4 seconds before the end, Stevenson landed a clear strike to the face of her opponent. However, only half the judges recorded the hit and thus was not registered, dashing Stevenson's Olympic hopes of gaining her the two points that would have secured her a quick victory. Stevenson's coach was furious and protested to the referee and judges, but initially Zhong was awarded the match. The British team protested for over an hour and on seeing the clear video footage of the strike to the face, unprecedently in the sport of Taekwondo, much to the crowd's dislike, the judges decision was repealed and it was Stevenson who went through to the semi-finals against the Mexican Maria del Rosario Espinoza.[3] Espinoza, however, secured a clear victory over the unprepared Stevenson and went on to win gold, whilst Stevenson took bronze in the bronze medal match against the Egyptian Noha Abd Rabo.

On announcing the change of result in the quarter final, the tournament director said:

The competition supervisory board has looked into this matter deeply, has made video analysis which has been open to all the referees and judges. In applying paragraph two of page 64 of the competition rules of the World Taekwondo Federation we have to change this result and we have to declare the British player as winner. "We are very sorry to the spectators of China but justice is first. Thank you for understanding."

Match-fixing allegations

Canadian medal hopeful, Ivett Gonda, lost 2-0 to Sweden's Hanna Zajc on the first day of competition despite Ivett's visible domination of the match. Her coach speculated that it is possible that the judge's scoring machines were possibly broken, he also speculated that another reason could be that the Chinese judge wanted to prevent Gonda from facing the Chinese competitor in the next round (who later easily beat Zajc on her way to the medal).

A protest was sent out and was subsequently denied. Many coaches, not only the Canadian coach, were shocked at the loss.[4]

Referee assault

The bronze medal match in the men's 80+ kg class saw Cuban gold medallist from Sydney in 2000 Ángel Matos against Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov.[5] After he incurred an injury in the fight (at which point he led the match 3-2), he subsequently took a Kyeshi.[5] Under World Taekwondo Federation tournament rules players sustaining injury are allowed one minute of Kyeshi time, at the end of which the competitor in question must return to the center of the ring to resume the fight or request further time, or else forfeit the match.[6] Swedish referee Chakir Chelbat gave a time warning at 40 seconds, but Kyeshi elapsed without Matos returning to the center.[5] The referee ruled while he was sitting awaiting medical attention that he had taken too long during his time out and subsequently disqualified him.[5] "To me it was obvious he was unable to continue," his opponent Arman Chilmanov of Kazakhstan said. "His toe on his left foot was broken."[7] After Chilmanov was declared the winner, Matos briefly argued and then delivered a kick to the face of the referee, drawing blood from the referee's mouth, then pushed or punched a judge and spat on the arena floor.[8][9][10] Given alleged poor judging during the Olympics, which left many competitors raging in injustice, the crowd watching the event chanted "Cuba" and applauded him and his coach.[11]

Matos' coach Leudis González said of the referee's initial decision to end the fight, "He was too strict...".[8]

A statement released by the World Taekwondo Federation referred to the incident as a "strong violation of the spirit of taekwondo and the Olympic Games", ordered all reports of his participation in the 2008 Olympics to be struck from the records, and imposed a lifetime ban preventing him and his coach, González, from participation in any future World Taekwondo Federation events.[9][12][13]

Fidel Castro defended Ángel Matos by saying Ángel Matos was rightfully indignant over his disqualification from the bronze-medal match. "I saw when the judges blatantly stole fights from two Cuban boxers in the semifinals," Castro wrote. "Our fighters ... had hopes of winning, despite the judges, but it was useless. They were condemned beforehand."[14]

Great Britain's postal service Royal Mail released a stamp in 2010 commemorating taekwondo's inclusion in the London 2012 Olympic Games[15] and it is debated that the illustration may be based on a widely circulated photo of Ángel Matos kicking referee Chakir Chelbat.[16][17]

Allegations of mismanagement and intimidation

An incident in the men's 80 kg competition may prove to have a more lasting impact on the sport. American Steven López, the two-time defending gold medalist in that class who had not lost a match since 2002, had one point taken away by the referee in the third period of his quarterfinal match against Italy's Mauro Sarmiento. The referee determined that Lopez had used an illegal "cut kick" (blocked an opponent's blow below the waist). The deduction turned Lopez' 2–1 lead to a 1–1 tie, and Lopez lost in sudden-death overtime. Team USA's team leader, Herb Perez, unsuccessfully protested the decision, asserting that Lopez had raised his left leg in defense and Sarmiento had kicked into the leg in an attempt to draw the deduction.[18]

In the wake of the decision, Perez leveled serious charges against the sport's governing body, the World Taekwondo Federation:[18]

Charles Robinson, a writer for Yahoo! Sports in the US, called the events surrounding Lopez' match "a chaotic episode that might ultimately prove to be the tipping point to Olympic doom", adding that it had been widely rumored that taekwondo was on the brink of being removed from the Olympic program.[18]


  1. "List of flagbearers Beijing 2008" (PDF). Multimedia.olympic.org. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  2. "BBC SPORT | Taekwondo | Taekwondo improves judging system". BBC News. 2009-10-14. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  3. "Judging questioned after Canada's Gonda loses 1st taekwondo matchaccessyear=2008". CBC. 2008. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Cuban banned after assault on referee". The Guardian. London. 2008-08-24. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  5. "main - World Taekwondo Federation". Wtf.org. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  6. "Cuban athlete is barred for kicking referee's face". The New York Times. 2008-08-24. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  7. 1 2 "Cuban attacks judge after losing bronze in taekwondo". AFP/Fox. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  8. 1 2 Talmadge, Eric (2008-08-23). "Cuban taekwondo athlete banned after kicking ref". AP/Google. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  9. "Kicked out: Cuban banned for life". NBC Sports. August 23, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  10. "Poor Judging Hurts Taekwondo". Koreatimes.co.kr. 2008-08-24. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  11. Ransom, Ian (2008-08-23). "Cuban banned for referee kick". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-08-24.
  12. "Cuban Taekwondo champ faces ban for kicking Olympic ref in head". Bloomberg. 2008-08-23.
  13. "Fidel Castro Defends Ángel Matos' Actions". CNN. Archived from the original on August 31, 2008.
  14. "London 2012 stamps released by Royal Mail to mark two years to the Olympic and Paralympic games". The Daily Telegraph. 2010-07-22.
  15. "Taekwondo Stamp Faux Pas! - Популярные статьи - Библиотека международной спортивной информации". Bmsi.ru. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  16. 1 2 3 Robinson, Charles (2008-08-22). "Lopez takes fight to taekwondo federation". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
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