Taekwondo: Team GB's Sarah Stevenson in shock first round defeat

 

Sarah Stevenson has experienced far greater pain in the last 18 months
so there were "no regrets" for the British taekwondo fighter after she
suffered a first-round defeat in the women's under-67kg at ExCeL.

American Paige McPherson had not read the script as she silenced a partisan crowd at the venue where Welsh teenager Jade Jones was last night roared on to gold in the under-57kg Olympic class.

Stevenson's 5-1 loss, largely down to an early head shot by the United States fighter in the first round, means she cannot now better the bronze won so dramatically in Beijing.

She could yet fight again through the repechage if McPherson, ranked 19th in the world, goes on to reach tonight's final.

Whatever happens, Stevenson has known far tougher times in her personal life since the start of last year.

She was able to deliver 2011 World Championship gold while her parents were battling terminal illness - both her mother and father died last year.

She then had to overcome a serious knee injury this year to prove her fitness for the four-strong Olympic taekwondo squad.

"I went out there 100% focused, I wanted it, but the last year has helped put this event into perspective. This is the Olympics, it is supposed to be fun - this is not life and death," said Stevenson, 29, who was given the honour of reading the athletes' oath at the Games opening ceremony.

"This is the Olympics and we should be able to have fun and go for it and that is what I did.

"Maybe I wasn't as good as I was before everything happened to me, but I did do my best under the circumstances.

"I have got no regrets. I think I did my best and I am happy with how I performed.

"I didn't know how I was going to be, neither did anyone else, the thing was to come here and do my best and I did."

Stevenson, who is coached by her husband Steve Jennings, paid tribute to the "amazing" home crowd.

She said: "I had about 20 people here from Doncaster, they have all got their flags and their T-shirts and they know that if I lost first out or if I won they were proud of me no matter what and that's the most important thing at this competition."

Stevenson, however, accepted it was always going to be a battle to return to the sort of form which took her to a second world title last year.

"My knee is as good as it can be," she said.

"Whether this would have been the same outcome 18 months ago, maybe not because I would have been 100% fit, not 99% fit.

"I wouldn't have had to mentally fight every single day for the last 18 months, I would just have been able to focus on taekwondo.

"Obviously that has not been the case, but there are more important things."

Stevenson paid tribute to the success of Jones.

"She has done wonders for the sport to get our first gold and is definitely a little superstar," said Stevenson, who coached the 19-year-old to gold at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore.

"She reminds me a lot of me when I was her age. With all the help we have got now, there is going to be no stopping her."

There was British success today when Lutalo Muhammad, a controversial selection for the under-80kg ahead of world number one Aaron Cook, won his first-round contest against Farkhod Negmatov of Tajikistan to book a place in the quarter-finals.

Muhammad, who was raised just a few miles away from the Olympic venue in Walthamstow but now fights out of the GB academy in Manchester, won the European title at under-87kg, and soon started to find his range this morning with head shots, but without landing a score against Negmatov's defensive stance.

Both men picked up penalty warnings at the start of the final round, before with 45 seconds left the Londoner finally connected with a chop kick to the head and moved 3-0 up.

Another sweeping axe kick put Muhammad's lead at 7-1 as he swept into the last eight, where he will take on Nicolas Garcia Hemme, the Spanish fourth seed, at around 3.45pm this afternoon.

Muhammad, 21, said on the BBC: "I feel a lot better off now I am in the quarter-final and hopefully I can progress through the rest of the rounds."

PA

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