CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) -Uzbekistan’s Ulugbek Rashitov and the United States’ Anastasija Zolotic won gold in taekwondo on Sunday but Iranian Kimia Alizadeh took the spotlight as she came up just short of nabbing the first medal for the Refugee Olympic Team.
On the second day of the taekwondo tournament, top Chinese and South Korean athletes lost their chance of gold, putting the focus on Alizadeh, one of three athletes competing under the Refugee Team’s white flag.
Though she missed her chance to make history – for a second time – Alizadeh was a clear favourite throughout the day in the Makuhari Messe arena, entering each time to applause and cheers from team members and others in the venue at which no general public spectators were allowed.
Five years ago in Rio, Alizadeh became the only Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal when she took bronze. She fled to Germany last year, saying she was fed up with being used as a propaganda tool.
Alizadeh’s first three matches were all notable: the first, against erstwhile compatriot Nahid Kiyani Chandeh – coached by her previous instructor – and the second against double Olympic champion Jade Jones of Britain.
In the third, the 23-year-old refugee defied the odds by beating Chinese gold medal favourite Zhou Lijun, who paced around the octagonal mat in disbelief as she conceded the match.
Alizadeh ultimately lost to Turkey’s Hatice Kubra Ilgun in the bronze medal match. She left the tournament without speaking to media, covering her face with a towel as she walked past reporters.
Her victories over Jones and Zhou were among many upsets on day two of the four-day taekwondo competition. Gold medal contenders in the men’s -68kg category, South Korea’s Lee Dae-hoon and China’s Zhao Shuai, both lost a chance for the crown. https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/taekwondo-heartache-skorea-olympics-jinx-follows-lee-2021-07-25 Zhao beat Lee at the bronze medal match.
The silver medals went to Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee and Britain’s Bradly Sinden.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond)