No gold but plenty of reason to be proud as Taekwondo wraps up
The 2020 Tokyo Games marks the first time in Olympic history that Korea has failed to win a single gold medal in Taekwondo across all disciplines.
A number of medals were still won — all by athletes who were competing in their first Olympics.
Jang Jun took home bronze in the men's -58 kilogram on Saturday by comfortably beating Hungary's Omar Salim, 46 points to 16.
On Tuesday, In Kyo-don did the same in the men's +80 kilogram, managing to eke out a 5-4 victory against Slovakia's Ivan Konrad Trajkovic.
In the women's +67 kilogram, Lee Da-bin made it to the finals, but had to settle for silver, with Serbia's Milica Mandic winning in a relatively close 10-7 victory, also on Tuesday.
The highlight of Korea's Taekwondo journey in this year's Games perhaps came earlier that day, when Lee made national news by landing a buzzer beater of a kick onto her opponent in the very final second of her semifinal match for a thrilling 25-24 comeback win. That she pulled it off against Great Britain's Bianca Walkden, ranked No.1 in the world in the +67kg category, only added to the drama.
Some may feel Korea's decreasing stature within the competition — solely in terms of silverware — might be a bad thing. From the wider perspective, however, the fact that so many other nations are starting to find their place and claim glory in the sport speaks to the success of Taekwondo's ongoing globalization.
At this year's Games, seven different countries — Russia, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Uzbekistan, Thailand and the United States — are going home with at least one gold medal in hand. A total of 61 countries, plus three refugee team athletes, competed.
One reason for Taekwondo's enduring international popularity is that it does not require expensive equipment, making it a highly appealing Olympic sport for nations without access to the pricey, specialized infrastructure necessary for some other competitions. Both Taekwondo and judo offer a shot at some silverware for countries that may not be in a position to contest many other Olympic sports.
BY JEON YOUNG-JAE [firstname.lastname@example.org]