Sarah Stevenson won Olympic bronze in the +67 taekwondo after surviving a day
of unprecedented drama in Beijing.
Stevenson had earlier successfully over-turned the “blatant robbery” of her
quarter-final defeat to world No1 Zhong Chen.
The flustered 25-year-old then lost her semi-final but bounced back strongly to
defeat Egyptian Nowa Abd Rabo 5-1 in the bronze medal match.
Stevenson, nursing a twisted ankle, becomes Britain’s first ever Olympic
Afterwards, Stevenson revealed that her ankle was “really sore”, but was delighted with her medal.
She said: ‘I am really happy. I tried really hard to be ready but it was really difficult. I wasn’t ready.
‘But when I finished I was happy because I got the bronze. I sort of knew I wasn’t ready to win but got the bronze.
‘I’ve had lots of injections and it’s really sore. I struggled but I’m really happy. I was really tired.’
Stevenson admitted the drama of the day had taken its toll on her – both physically and mentally.
She added: ‘I was physically ready more than I’ve ever been and had the best support I’ve ever had. But mentally – when you get here it’s more mental what you have to do and I really tried.
‘It’s been a good day. All the ups and downs.
‘I’ve come away with a medal so I’m happy. First time at the Olympics and a medal is better than nothing so I am really happy.’
In an extraordinary series of events, Stevenson trailed Chen 1-0 with 10 seconds remaining when she clearly landed a sweeping blow to the head of the reigning and double Olympic champion, which ought to have won the match 2-1.
However, after conferring, the four judges did not recognise the point, leading the British team to mount an unprecedented appeal and Stevenson to slam the result as “definitely” a home decision and “blatant robbery”.
Half an hour later, the World Taekwondo Federation announced the decision had been overturned, sending Stevenson into a semi-final, which, amid a storm of boos from irate Chinese supporters, she lost 4-1 to Mexico’s Maria Espinoza.
Afterwards, British Taekwondo performance director Gary Hall revealed her cause had been helped by an extraordinary display of sportsmanship by the Chinese.
Hall said: “It was very sporting of the Chinese team to say it wasn’t right and it needed overturning. Them agreeing to it was the right thing to do and you have to take your hat off to Zhong Chen.
“She’s been Olympic champion twice and she gave up the slot like that. She knew clearly because she was the one who felt the kick in the head. It was a non-debatable decision and it was very clear.”
There was uproar in the USTB Gymnasium when the decision was announced and, despite being back in the competition, the upheaval proved costly.
Stevenson had just 10 minutes instead of her usual 40 to prepare for the semi-final and she was well beaten by the more focused Mexican.
Hall added: “It was really tough. The team worked hard around her to help her stay as focused as she could in the circumstances but obviously she had quite a lot of emotion to deal with.
“The energy to get yourself up for this is pretty tough and you don’t prepare for this amount of stress. You expect fair and honest decisions. We had them in this case, but we’ve also had our share of bad luck.
“It’s a shame really because Sarah has clearly beaten both girls who were in the final this year.”
Taken from the Mail on Sunday August 24th 2008.