July 27, 2021

By Chang-Ran Kim

CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) – Serbia’s Milica Mandic ended South Korea’s unbroken record of Olympic gold medals for taekwondo on Tuesday, beating Lee Dabin in the women’s heavyweight class final to repeat her victory in the 2012 London Games.

South Korea, where the combat sport originated, had won at least one taekwondo gold at every Summer Games since the sport became a full medal Olympic event in 2000.

“I was ready for it,” Mandic said.

“Rio (in 2016) was very hard for me – I wanted it so much but did not get the result,” she said, referring to her early knockout from the tournament. “This time I had years to qualify and the dream came true.”

South Korea’s Lee was not the favourite to win the women’s +67kg category, but looked in great shape as she unexpectedly worked her way through the matches, reviving Team South Korea’s hopes for an elusive gold.

In arguably the most exciting match of the day, Lee beat Britain’s Bianca Walkden in the semi-finals, turning the tables with a last-second head-kick to dash the world champion’s dreams of finishing top of the podium. Walkden took the bronze.

“There was no pressure,” Lee said of the nation’s hopes hanging on her result.

“I thought I should do my best no matter who I fight. I always go for victory and although I did not win in the final, with all my skills and techniques, I think I had one of my best performances so I feel good about it.”

Apart from Lee’s silver, South Korea took two bronze medals.

In the men’s +80kg category, world number one Vladislav Larin overpowered North Macedonia’s Dejan Georgievski to give the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) the top medal ranking with two of the eight taekwondo golds. The ROC also took a silver and a bronze.

Silver medallist Georgievski earned the young nation its second-ever Olympic medal.

The four-day tournament was even more disappointing for China, which, like South Korea, fielded the most athletes at six but took home one bronze.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; editing by John Stonestreet/Ed Osmond/Ken Ferris)