Lopez takes taekwondo bronze; Iran, S. Korea win

Aug. 22, 2008, 8:55 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Hwang Kyung-seon won South Korea its third gold medal in taekwondo on Friday, and Iran's Hadi Saei captured the men's 80-kilogram-class after an upset sent favorite Steven Lopez of the United States to a quarterfinal loss.

Lopez, the defending Athens gold medalist, came back to add a bronze to the silver and bronze won by his younger brother and sister on Thursday.

Saei, who won the gold in a lower weight class in the 2004 Games, went ahead in the first round against Italy's Mauro Sarmiento, but Sarmiento hit him squarely with a head kick to take a 4-2 lead.

Saei landed a kick in the second round to move within a point, then another to Sarmiento's side to tie the score 4-4 going into the final round. He came out quickly in the third, scoring another point for the lead and added on a sixth point to seal the victory.

Lopez scored on Rashad Ahmadov of Azerbaijan in the final seconds to win bronze. The second bronze went to Zhu Guo of China, who defeated Aaron Cook of Britain 4-1.

Saei moved easily through his group, taking his first match with a 7-point margin, then winning 3-2 over Zhu and 4-1 in the semis against Ahmadov.

Sarmiento - coming off a leg injury that has slowed him since 2006 - narrowly made it to the semis by defeating Lopez in a quarterfinal that went into overtime.

Lopez, who hadn't lost a bout since 2002, was the heavy favorite.

Lopez fought Bahri Tanrikulu of Turkey in his opening bout, a rematch of their final in the Athens Games.

After a scoreless first round, Tanrikulu, a two-time world champion, hit with a roundhouse kick with 20 seconds to go in the second round to take the lead. Lopez came back at the start of round three to score two points and added another to go ahead 3-1. Tanrikulu had a point deducted just before the bell and the match ended 3-0 for Lopez.

But Lopez' luck then ran out.

He led 2-0 going into the final round of the quarters, but was scored on and then dropped a point for a penalty to go into overtime with Sarmiento. With time running out, Sarmiento nailed Lopez with a jumping kick as the Texan lunged forward.

The U.S. team protested the point deduction in the third round, saying it was a legal defensive move and not an illegal chop kick, but the protest was not accepted.

"We were manhandled, we were threatened not to protest, but we continued out of good faith," said team leader Herb Perez. "We don't feel we were given a level playing field."

Though they fell short of the golds, the Lopez family made U.S. Olympic history.

On Thursday, Lopez brother Mark won a silver in men's 68-kg and sister Diana a bronze in women's 57-kg.

They are the first three siblings to compete for the United States in the same Olympics since the gymnasts Edward, William and Richard Tritschler competed in St. Louis in 1904 but failed to medal.

In Friday's women's final, Hwang defeated Canada's Karine Sergerie with a kick in the final seconds to win the women's 67-kg class.

Hwang, launching few attacks, trailed Sergerie by a kick as the first round ended, but came back with 30 seconds left in the second round to tie it up. She scored with a back kick with 35 seconds left to win.

Hwang, who was the Athens bronze medalist and world champion in 2005 and 2007, cruised through her opening bout with a 5-1 score.

She fought a cautious quarterfinal but went ahead in the second round and used a counterattack kick in the third to win 3-1. In the semi, she squared off with longtime rival Gwladys Epangue of France. She won in overtime.

The bronze medals went to Epangue and Sandra Saric of Croatia.