It was a dream come true for Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Tseng Li-cheng (曾櫟騁) when she overwhelmed her Finnish opponent in a shortened match to bag a bronze medal in London on Thursday.
“It’s incredible that I can represent our country in winning a coveted medal at the world’s most prominent sporting event,” the 25-year-old said.
Tseng beat Suvi Mikkonen of Finland 14-2 to take the bronze in the women’s under-57kg category, Taiwan’s second medal at the Games.
The bout ended when Tseng pulled ahead by 12 points, 24 seconds into the third round. Competitors with a 12-point lead are automatically given a “win on points gap.”
“Knowing this would be my last bout, I gave it everything I had,” said Tseng, who entered the Olympics as the world No. 1 in her weight class. “I used all the experience and skills I had picked up over the past decade.”
A member of the Amis Aboriginal tribe, Tseng admitted that she felt a pang of regret that she could only fight for bronze, rather than gold.
In the semi-finals, Tseng led Britain’s Jade Jones 2-1 after two rounds and she was ahead 3-2 with 45 seconds left in the bout, but two quick kicks by Jones and a penalty against Tseng put her behind 5-3 with 23 seconds to go.
Desperate to come back, Tseng launched a kick toward Jones’ head that would have been worth three points — and the lead — had it hit. When the kick was not awarded, Tseng’s coach appealed, but after a video review the appeal was rejected.
Tseng, who thought the kick hit its mark, said that if the review panel had accepted the appeal she would have had a good chance of making it into the final. Instead, she desperately flailed away in the final 15 seconds, leaving herself exposed, and Jones picked up a handful of points with precise defensive kicks to win the bout 10-6.
10pm, Brazil face Mexico in the men’s final at Wembley Stadium.
3am tomorrow morning, Germany take on the Netherlands in the men’s final.
4am tomorrow morning, Usain Bolt attempts to win his third gold medal in the 4x100m final.
Jones went on to win Britain’s first Olympic taekwondo gold, beating China’s Hou Yuzhuo (侯玉琢) 6-4 in the final.
Tseng gave her coach Tang Hui-ting (湯惠婷) a hug after receiving the bronze medal. She then circled the arena, the country’s Olympic flag in hand, to greet spectators, including many Taiwanese expats who turned up to cheer her on.
“I really want to thank my coach. I wasn’t easy to deal with, but she continued to put up with me,” the bronze medalist said.
In the final, Jones, who had lost to Hou in the final of last year’s world championships, rode a strong wave of support from the home crowd to bully her way past the Chinese fighter and win Britain’s 25th gold of the Olympic Games.
The 19-year-old from north Wales grabbed British and Welsh flags from the crowd and raced around in a lap of honor as the 8,000 fans in the Excel Centre roared her on.
Jones, who won gold at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore after the people of her hometown Flint helped finance her trip for the qualifiers, said winning gold was something special.
“It feels crazy. It’s amazing and the crowd’s amazing,” she said. “To be the first [British] athlete to win Olympic [taekwondo] gold is amazing.”
Jones also paid tribute to her teammate Sarah Stevenson, who competes in the welterweight division, and said she owed everything to her coach, Paul Green.
“The coach is a legend. Without him I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.
Green praised his charge’s work ethic and said there was more to come.
“The work this girl’s been putting in over the last six months is ridiculous. She’s been getting up at six, tears every day, but she’s a fighter and she works hard,” Green said. “She’s still got improvements to make in the game, but the future’s bright for her. She delivers under pressure.”