Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Taekwondo Men's 59kg Women's 48kg Qualifiers

Olympic Taekwondo Women’s 49kg and Men’s 58kg- An Outsider’s Perspective

Beijing, China—In an age of full-contact fighting and mixed martial arts, Olympic Taekwondo is proving to be hardly a pushover sport.

In the Women’s 49 Kilogram weight class of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Charlotte Craig of the USA went toe-to-toe against Venezuela’s Dalia Contreras Rivero. They came out throwing right-leg roundhouse kicks in the blink of an eye. Venezuela landed a high kick like something out of Soul Calibur 4 that almost took Craig’s nose off. She then went for another roundhouse, missed, and turned it into a spinning back kick. When do you see cool stuff like this in MMA? One last roundhouse by Venezuela won her the match over Craig by a score of 3-2.

The second match saw Buttree Puedpong of Thailand fighting Thi Ngoc Truc Tran of Viet Nam. Thai’s are famous for their kicking prowess, and Thailand certainly brought it with a stinging exchange of low kicks that threw a point on the board for the country that kicks tires. She then threw a high snap kick that I thought landed in Viet Nam’s throat! The first round ended with me rubbing my collar bone.

Third round, Thailand came out with a flying side kick that narrowly missed. I remember in Muay Thai we used to call that kick the “Almighty Boot.” The match went onto sudden death and Viet Nam came out with what sure looked like a flying knee to me. This is TKD and not some other more famous kicking martial art involving knees and elbows right? A last roundhouse by Thailand won the match.

In the Men’s 58kg class, Mexico’s Guillermo Perez faced Afghanistan’s Rouhulla Nikpai as chants of “MEHICO! MEHICO!” echoed from the stands. Perez hardly came out like a Mexican Jumping Bean while Nikpai squatted down into a modified horse stance, defending. Suddenly, both fighters leapt at the same time and threw one-two kicks at each other like one-two punches in mid-air. As Nikpai leapt in the air, Perez shot out a roundhouse while Nikpai was still airborne, sending him flailing to the mat like some blow-up pool toy. Third round, Nikpai’s high kick landed on Perez’s head while he was still touching him! Can you say flexible? Nikpai then threw a stop kick that landed right on Perez’s hip, sending him to the mat with a charlie-horse. When Perez came back, he came back with a vengeance, kicking Nikpai literally out of the air, catching his high kick with his hand and kicking him off his feet again. One more right leg roundhouse by Perez and it was all over. Victory was handed to an unlikely contender, Mexico.

Generation O (O for Octagon) is indeed a new breed of athlete and fighter, but fighters and athletes from other disciplines like Olympic Taekwondo have proven that they are worthy of respect as elite athletes. Olympic Judo has made the switch to the full-contact arena, I am confident that Olympic Taekwondo can and has to a certain degree. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is currently trying to make the switch backwards to sanction itself as an Olympic sport, but I’m sure that scenario would turn out something like Olympic Softball, we all know which country would take home all the medals.

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