RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - South Korea once again dominated Olympic taekwondo in Rio de Janeiro, winning two gold medals and three bronze that gave the Asian country a record 19 medals since the sport first became a competitive event at the 2000 Games.
But fighters from Africa, Britain and Azerbaijan showed how quickly the sport has spread beyond its South Korean home and is developing champions in other regions.
“Our sport was really dominated by the Korean team and nowadays it’s such a different sport that anyone stands a chance,” said Jackie Galloway, a bronze medal winner from the United States in the women’s over 67kg category.
“More people internationally are involved in it,” she said of the rapid growth of taekwondo around the world.
The bout of the tournament electrified viewers late Friday when Cheick Sallah Cisse, of the Ivory Coast, with a last-second spin kick wrested the gold medal in the under 80kg category from Briton Lutalo Muhammad.
The victory, the first ever Olympic gold medal for Ivory Coast, was also the African country’s second medal of the tournament after a bronze for Ruth Gbagbi in an earlier fight in the women’s under 67kg category.
It was also part of a strong showing for other athletes from Africa. A silver medal in the over 80kg category for Issoufou Alfaga Abdoulrazak of Niger completed a haul of five medals for fighters from the continent, including a bronze each for Egypt and Tunisia.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and Britain both scored big at the tournament, with three medals each.
The British team, who at past Olympics had won a combined three medals in the sport, won gold, silver and bronze, with Welsh fighter Jade Jones finishing atop the women’s under 57kg category for the second consecutive Games.
Athletes from Azerbaijan, who had never before secured a taekwondo medal despite a strong record in other Olympic combat sports, scored two bronze medals in addition to the gold won by Radik Isaev in his victory over Niger’s Abdoulrazak on Saturday, the final bout of the Rio Games.
Editing by Rex Gowar