Taekwondo: Judges do Stevenson's head in but she fights back for bronze

Wincing in agony from a busted ankle and tearful through a mixture of raging injustice and sheer relief, Sarah Stevenson finally earned herself the elusive Olympic taekwondo medal she has craved since her Games debut as a teenager in Sydney eight years ago.

The fact that the 25-year-old will leave China with a bronze and not a gold, "or even a shot at one", will rankle for years after a controversy-laden, roller-coaster day for both Stevenson and the home nation's hot favourite, Chen Zhong.

But Stevenson's immediate reaction to Britain's first medal in her sport was mostly positive. "I've come away with a medal so I'm happy," she said after a 5-1 victory over Egypt's Noha Abd Rabo in an eventual bronze medal match. She added that it had been a day of "ups and downs". That is some understatement.

In an act of "blatant robbery", as Stevenson described it, the Doncaster kicker was initially denied an over-67kg quarter-final win over Chen because the judges did not credit her with two vital points she deserved for a late sweeping blow to Chen's head. That would have made the score 2-1 to Stevenson.

Instead, after conferring, the four judges did not award the points, making Chen, seeking a third straight Olympic gold in the event, the 1-0 victor. Astonishingly even the partisan crowd booed the perceived home bias. The British team immediately lodged an appeal.

Stevenson at this point said the result had "definitely" been "a home decision" and "blatant robbery". Half an hour later, the World Taekwondo Federation announced, incredibly, that the appeal had succeeded. That was unprecedented. The result was overturned in favour of Team GB. Stevenson was in a semi-final, but a confused and angry crowd at the USTB Gymnasium, having accepted that Chen was through, reacted with uproar.

Stevenson, unprepared for a bout she was not expecting, then lost 4-1 to Mexico's Maria Espinoza against a backdrop of boos. Instead of progressing to a golden opportunity of a final, Stevenson went instead to a bronze match against Abd Rabo. Despite an ankle injury, sustained in the loss to Espinoza and so severe that Stevenson could not walk properly, she beat the North African easily to land her medal. Espinoza went on to win gold.

Stevenson said of the judges' decision not to award the points against Chen: "It was blatantly robbing me of getting into the semi-finals.

"It's one thing I hate about this sport that the judges can control people's lives like this, take points away and do whatever they want.

"It wasn't just that point," Stevenson added. "She got warnings for going back the whole fight and attacked just once and that's the only time she scored. She's twice Olympic champion but she's definitely not better than me."

Gary Hall, Britain's performance director, later praised the sportsmanship of the Chinese. "It was very sporting of the Chinese team to say it wasn't right and it needed overturning. Them agreeing to it was the right thing to do and you have to take your hat off to Chen Zhong.

"She's been Olympic champion twice and she gave up the slot like that. She knew clearly because she was the one who felt the kick in the head. It was a non-debatable decision and it was very clear."

Of her loss in her semi-final, Stevenson said: "I didn't fight very well. I didn't have enough time to prepare because I didn't expect to fight. My mind and body weren't ready. I've beaten that girl twice.

"I thought my next fight was going to be in the repechage and I was focused on that. I have done so much mental preparation, but I just blew it. That [reinstatement] just messed my whole game up in terms of tactics."

If Stevenson thought she had it bad, there was more drama to come when a Cuban athlete and his coach were banned for life after Angel Matos kicked the referee in the face following his bronze-medal match disqualification.

Cuban coach Leudis Gonzalez offered no apology for Matos's actions during the over-80kg match. Matos was winning 3-2 in the second-round match when he fell to the mat after being hit by his opponent, Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov.

He was sitting awaiting medical attention when he was disqualified for taking too much time. Fighters get 60 seconds and Matos was disqualified when his time ran out.

Matos questioned the call, pushed a judge, then pushed and kicked the referee Chakir Chelbat of Sweden. Matos then spat on the floor and had to be escorted out.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor