CHIBA, Japan – Top-ranked taekwondo champion Lee Dae-hoon lost in the opener of his last Olympics on Sunday, dashing South Korea’s best hope for a gold medal in the national sport that it once dominated. .
Lee has won a treasure trove of gold medals, including three world championships and a record 12 Grand Prix, but the Olympic trophy has escaped him. He won silver at London 2012 and bronze at Rio four years later.
“It’s my last Olympics, so I wish I had done better,” he said. “It was good in my body and mind, but my handling of the fight could have been better; I was successful at first, but then I felt rushed. “
Lee, the father of a 29-year-old toddler, said nerves also got in the way on the Olympic stage. South Korea has won a record 12 Olympic gold medals in taekwondo, but no longer dominates the sport, which has athletes from 61 countries and territories, in addition to the Olympic Refugee Team, represented in Tokyo.
“Since the Olympics are really important, maybe I felt more pressure.”
Popular in the taekwondo circle – he has won the “Player of the Year” award voted by his peers more times than any other athlete – Lee said he was satisfied as an athlete, even as he wished for a different result as he prepared to retire.
Sunday’s loss to Uzbek Ulugbek Rashitov, 17th in the world, added another surprise to a tournament full of surprises since it kicked off on Saturday.
Tied at the end of three two-minute rounds, Lee delivered a body kick to Rashitov in the “golden round”, where the first to score automatically wins. As an ecstatic Rashitov leapt up and down pumping his fists, Lee crouched down on his hands and knees, his head on the mat.
The South Korean has a chance to return in the playoff stage if his Uzbek opponent advances to the final.
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