South Korea Eyes Taekwondo Sweep
By Kim Tong-hyung
With two-time world champion Hwang Kyung-seon delivering South Korea's third taekwondo gold medal in the Beijing Olympics, the pressure is now on Cha Dong-min to complete the country's sweep.
The 22-year-old Hwang fended off a challenge by Canadian standout Karine Sergerie Friday for a 2-1 win in the final of the women's 67-kilogram class.
Hwang's win followed the gold medal performances of her compatriots Lim Su-jeong, who topped the women's 57-kilogram class, and Son Tae-jin, the winner of the men's 68-kilogram class, a day earlier.
Each country can enter a maximum of four fighters, two men and two women, in the Olympic taekwondo tournament, a quota intended to limit the Korean share of medals.
Cha, who opens against Costa Rica's Kristopher Moitland in the men's over 80-kilogram class Saturday, had been widely considered the weakest contender among the Korean four.
Defending world champion Daba Modibo of Mali is discussed as the man to beat and he is motivated to deliver his country its first Olympic gold medal. Mickael Borot of France and Alexandros Nikolaidis of Greece are also expected to compete for the podium.
So unlike his compatriots who had declared ``gold or bust," a bronze medal would be considered an achievement for Cha.
However, Cha is confident of his chances for clinching the country's fourth gold. Since taekwondo was introduced as an Olympic event at the 2000 Sydney Games, Koreans have never lost the gold in the sport's heaviest division, and Cha doesn't want to become a footnote of history.
``There is apparently a pressure to extend the country's tradition of excellence," said Cha.
``But I feel comfortable now, not as tense as I was when I first came here, and all I want to do is fight, get the gold and come back home," he said.
Cha had the fortune of an easy draw, as Moitland is considered a heavy underdog in the opening fight. The bracket doesn't have Cha meeting Modibo and the other major contenders unless he reaches the finals.