South Korea and Argentina won Olympic taekwondo gold medals on Friday in two dramatically different finals.
In the women’s 67kg division, Hwang Kyung-seon defended the title she first won at the Beijing Games by beating Nur Tatar of Turkey 12-5 in an action-packed final where both fighters were on the attack from the start.
On the men’s side, Sebastian Crismanich of Argentina won the country’s first gold of the London Games in the 80kg division.
In Hwang’s bout, both fighters landed head kicks nearly simultaneously within the opening 12 seconds before Hwang took control, nailing Tatar with several more body and head shots.
The 26-year-old two-times world champion Hwang previously won a bronze in Athens and became the first woman to win three Olympic taekwondo medals.
Hwang used her speed and flexibility to dominate all of her matches on Friday.
She said there was pressure on the Korean team to bring home gold medals, since the martial art was developed there. Until Hwang’s win, Lee Dae-hoon’s silver in the men’s 58kg division on Wednesday was the country’s only medal.
“It feels like flying,” Hwang said afterwards. “I’ve done something special for the country and it makes me very proud.”
The bronze medals were won by Paige McPherson of the US and Germany’s Helena Fromm.
Crismanich defeated Spain’s Nicolas Garcia in a cautious final where both fighters seemed reluctant to attack. Crismanich ultimately managed to land a body shot with eight seconds remaining to win 1-0.
Crismanich, 26, won the Pan-American championships last year, but the gold was his first Olympic medal.
In most of his matches on Friday, Crismanich was on the attack early, catching his opponents off guard with a rapid succession of body shots and head kicks.
Several of the division’s top seeds made an early exit, including the US’ five-times world champion Steven Lopez, Iran’s world champion Yousef Karami and top seed Ramin Azizov of Azerbaijan.
The world No. 1, Britain’s Aaron Cook, was conspicuously absent after UK officials refused to choose him for the team. Cook said he felt cheated and was being punished for his decision to leave the national training program.
“I don’t think I can ever move on from what they’ve done to me,” Cook said.