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South Korea, Iran shine in taekwondo

india Updated: Aug 22, 2008 18:49 IST

AFP
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South Korea bagged their third taekwondo gold and Iran struck their first of the Beijing Olympics Friday on a day of refereeing controversy which crushed American Steven Lopez's three-peat dreams.

Iran's Hadi Saei beat European bronze medallist Mauro Sarmiento of Italy 6-4 in the men's -80kg welterweight final to lift the second Olympic gold of his career after winning the -68kg title at the Athens Games four years ago.

In the women's -67kg welterweight final, South Korea's double world champion Hwang Kyung-Seon beat Canada's Karine Sergerie, the world champion in the 59-63kg class.

But the third day of the four-day taekwondo competition saw a sad end to the fairy tale run of Lopez, which has included four world titles and two Olympic gold medals.

He bowed to Sarmiento in the quarter-finals 2-1 after he was given a one-point penalty for a leg move which was ruled an illegal kick by Indonesia referee Oh Il-Nam but seen as a defensive tactic by Lopez.

The US taekwondo team protested to no avail, although member countries of the World Taekwondo Federation had earlier signed a document pledging not to make a protest, US team leader Herb Perez said.

"We feel if we force the World Taekwondo Federation to raise their standards then this would be a better Olympic sport. It should be fair for all athletes," Perez said.

The 29-year-old American led 2-0 in the first two rounds but the Italian, fifth at the world championships last year, hit back with a kick in the third round.

Lopez was given a one-point penalty to end the regulation three rounds at 1-1.

Sarmiento scored a point in a sudden-death fourth round to win the match.

The US team immediately protested against the point deduction as it said Lopez's lifting of his right shin, which was deemed an illegal kick below the belt, was made in defence against Sarmiento's attack toward his shin.

"There is a chance that I will be sanctioned, but I'm not concerned about myself," Perez said.

Lopez fought back through the second-chance repechage round of losers to win one of two bronze medals, adding to one silver and one bronze won by his siblings.

Mark Lopez, 26, grabbed the men's -68kg featherweight silver and Diana, 24, the women's -57kg featherweight bronze on Thursday.

The Lopezs are the first trio of siblings to represent the United States at the same Olympics in the same sport since 1904.

They became the first US family trio to medal after the Tritschler brothers all missed out in gymnastics 104 years ago.