LONDON (AP) – It was a day of taekwondo firsts for Britain and Turkey.
The U.K.’s Jade Jones and Turkey’s Servet Tazegul won their country’s first ever Olympic gold medals in the combat sport on Thursday.
Jones defeated China’s Hou Yuzhuo 6-4 in a cagey final where both fighters struggled to score.
Jones eventually managed to get past Hou’s blocks and landed several body shots.
Earlier in the day, Jones ousted the category’s top seed, Taiwanese fighter Tseng Li-Cheng in a tense semifinal she won after a burst of combination kicks in the last minute of the fight. Tseng later won a bronze.
Jones was in sharp form on Thursday, delivering multiple head shots and successfully jamming her opponents’ attempts to score on her. She was cheered on by thousands of British fans who applauded and stamped every point that went on the scoreboard for her.
Jones said she was intent on victory. “I came here to get gold,” she said. She tossed her headguard high into the air after winning and draped a Union Jack around her shoulders. “Before I came out, I thought, ‘I’m not letting (Hou) beat me here in front of the home crowd.” Jones said the support from the crowd was “crazy.”
Jones, 19, previously won gold at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
The other bronze medal was won by France’s Marlene Harnois.
In the men’s division, world No. 1 Servet Tazegul of Turkey literally spun his way to victory, defeating Iran’s Mohammad Bagheri Motamed in a close-fought final where Tazegul was often on the attack but rarely scored.
“I ask the people of Iran for their forgiveness,” Motamed said. “I know that everyone wanted me to win this one. I feel sorry I didn’t live up to their expectations.”
Throughout Thursday, Tazegul’s speedy footwork seemed to confuse his opponents, many of whom tried to adapt to his high-paced fight style. None succeeded.
Tazegul, 23, is the world No. 1 and is known for forcing his opponents to adapt to his high-paced fight style. On Thursday, none were able to match his speedy footwork or the fluidity of his kicks.
Before the final, Tazegul said he wanted to win for Turkey.
“We’ve got no gold medals at these Olympics yet and no Turkish (taekwondo athlete) has ever won an Olympic gold medal so far,” he said. “I want to make the Turkish people happy for that achievement. I want (it) to be gold and I want it straight from my heart.”
The bronze medals went to American Terrence Jennings and Afghanistan’s Rohullah Nikpai, who won his country’s first-ever Olympic medal at the Beijing Games – also a bronze.
“I’m very happy because this medal is very important for my country,” he said Thursday. “Of course, getting a medal is very important to all the countries in the world, but especially for Afghanistan.”