After a roller coaster day of Taekwondo in Tokyo, Bradly Sinden becomes an Olympic Silver Medallist.
The reigning World champion came agonisingly close to becoming the first British male to win an Olympic Games taekwondo gold medal. But with memories of Rio 2016 revived, the Doncaster fighter lost in the closing moments of the -68kg final to Uzbek teenager, Ulugbek Rashitov.
Five years earlier Londoner Lutalo Muhammad saw an Olympic title snatched from his grasp in the -80kg final. This time Sinden, 22, was eight seconds from victory as he led his relatively unknown, 19-year-old rival 28-26. However, Rashitov, seeded 17 and forced to qualify for the main draw, hit back in dramatic style to secure eight of the last nine points. Sinden, the world number two, put a brave face on defeat to the 2019 World Military Games champion who also accounted for South Korea’s double Olympic medallist and world number one, Lee Dae-Hoon in the last 16.
“It was my gold medal to give away,” said the Yorkshire fighter. “He is a good fighter and took out some good players. “So, I didn’t go in thinking it was my time. I just went in to do my best and at times I controlled the fight but he did well to come back into it”. “I was unlucky with a few things but that’s taekwondo. I thought I had him but I made mistakes and let him back in”. “Well done to him for capitalising but you will see me again in Paris. “I came here to win gold and anything else we are not here to celebrate.
“But after taking some time off I will reflect on it and be proud of what I have achieved. “It is a hard one to take but sometimes you learn more from losing. I will be taking that knowledge into Paris with me and hopefully I can go one better.”
Sinden also becomes the second taekwondo athlete from Doncaster to stand on an Olympic podium after Sarah Stevenson’s trail blazing bronze at Beijing 2008. “Sarah’s medal got us funding to bring through the next wave of athletes to win medals, people like Jade Jones and Lutalo. “It also helped the cadet development programme to which I got invited,” said Sinden.
GB taekwondo team mate Jade Jones was suffering first round agony prior to Sinden’s first appearance. But he had words of encouragement for the double Olympic champion.
“Jade is a trooper and done amazing in training and put in the work. I know she will be gutted. “But it is part of sport: you win, you lose. It’s the same with me but as I said there are things you can learn from. “If you dwell on things it can affect your performances for a long time. But if you don’t shy away from it and take it full on, you can improve. It just wasn’t my day to win gold.”
Sinden marked his Olympic debut by achieving a 45-point winning, first round margin over New Zealand’s Tom Burns. He followed up with a 39-19 victory against Hakan Recber to set-up a semi-final with China’s 2016 Olympic champion at -58kg, Shuai Zhao. Even a silver medal looked remote when he trailed by seven points with just 80 seconds remaining. However, Sinden kept his cool to win 33-25 while Rashitov recorded his fourth win of the day to reach the final with a 28-5 success against Nedzad Husic of Bosnia Herzegovina.
Jade Jones’ dream of a history making three successive Olympic Games gold medals is over but the Welsh star still has unfinished business with Tokyo 2020.
The London 2012 and Rio 2016 champion’s nine-year unbeaten Olympic record ended with a 16-12 defeat to Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorian in the last 16 of the -57kg weight division. Jones, 28, led after the opening round of three but couldn’t sustain the momentum as Zenoorian, a bronze medallist from Rio and representing a Refugee Olympic squad, registered a famous win. Jones from Flint was also denied a consolation shot at bronze in a repechage as Alizadeh who represented Iran five years ago in Brazil, eventually lost in the semi-finals.
But with GB Taekwondo teammate and best friend, Bianca Walkden, hoping to win a cherished gold medal of her own on Tuesday, Jones is ready to put her own heartbreak to one side. Three-time world champion Walkden was in floods of tears as Jones’ reign ended after six agonising minutes. “When I looked up and saw her crying, I knew she was as hurt as me,” said Jones. “Bianca is amazing and I will tell her my mistakes so she doesn’t make them herself. But it is all there for her to go and get that gold medal.”
Jones admitted she struggled for inspiration without a crowd at the Makuhari Messe and her family back home in North Wales unable to travel to Japan due to the pandemic. “I just felt I put too much pressure on myself going into it,” said the world number one and world champion. “I felt it more than I expected on the day. So, not having my family there to push me out of that fear zone really did affect me. “I am gutted I couldn’t do more. Champions adapt and I didn’t adapt. “For me, I do love a crowd and my family being there so it was a struggle, and I did miss them. “I wish I had gone after it more. But I didn’t switch into attack mode and stayed in scared mode. “But she (Zenoorian) was better than me on day and she is amazing fighter. “I am gutted because it wasn’t how I planned the day to go. I wasn’t the best so I have to take it on the chin and congratulate the other girl.
“It was a tough draw and I didn’t know who I was going to fight until two hours before. But no excuses. “Fortunately, I have got the best family in the world. I Facetimed them after and they were celebrating as if I had won. “They are still so proud of me so I am lucky to be going back to that win or lose.”
Asked if she would continue her career through to Paris 2024, Jones replied: “All the emotions are going to take a while to sink in. “So, I will take some time out and figure it all out to see what I do next.”