Serbia and Italy took the Olympic taekwondo heavyweight medals on the last day of the competition on Saturday.
Serbia’s Milica Mandic won her country’s first Olympic gold of the London Games by winning the women’s over-67kg division, upsetting top-seeded Anne-Caroline Graffe of France 9-7 in a tight final.
On the men’s side, history was made — by the loser.
Rome policeman Carlo Molfetta took the gold in the over-80kg division for Italy and the man he defeated, Gabon’s Anthony Obame, won his country’s first ever Olympic medal.
Molfetta won by a judges’ decision after he and Obame remained in a dead heat even after the tense fight went into overtime.
Earlier in the day, Mandic knocked out two of the division favorites, defending Olympic champion Maria Espinoza of Mexico and world No. 2 Anastasia Baryshnikova of Russia. Espinoza later won a bronze medal.
Mandic was frequently on the offensive in her fights, striking her opponents first with a targeted kick to the body, before quickly retreating so they could not counterattack.
Her victory surprised many, including the woman she beat.
“I’m proud of my silver medal, though I was expecting to get gold,” Graffe said afterwards.
Mandic, 20, called it the highlight of her life.
“I just can’t believe it and I’m so proud I did it for my country,” the Serbian said.
Mandic won a bronze at the world championships last year. The other bronze medal went to Russia’s Anastasia Baryshnikova.
Though he is 1.83m tall, Molfetta was dwarfed by several of his opponents, notably Daba Modibo Keita of Mali, who stands at 2.03m.
Molfetta resorted to jump kicks to reach Keita and won a dramatic semi-final where both players requested video replays of disputed points.
“I never gave up because I wanted an Olympic medal,” Molfetta said. “It’s a present to myself.”
Obame, 23, trains in France and was seeded fifth at the Games after making it to the third round of the world championships last year. After winning his semi-final in the last second of the match, Obame collapsed to the mat, knowing he was assured of a medal.
Before the final, Obame said it was “a fantastic sensation” to know he would win his country’s first Olympic medal.
The bronze medals were won by Robelis Despaigne of Cuba, after his opponent Keita pulled out with an injury, and China’s Liu Xiaobo. Liu won despite being penalized in an earlier fight for turning his back and running off the mat.
For South Korea, the country that invented taekwondo, it was a disappointing end to the competition. Their fighters only managed to win one gold and one silver.
Both South Koreans were shut out of the medals on Saturday, including defending Olympic champion Cha Dong-min, ousted in the quarter-finals.