Olympic taekwondo competition got underway this morning at London’s ExCel Centre with two Americans taking to the mat.
Terrence Jennings (Alexandria, Va.) started off his Olympic tournament facing top-seed and reigning world champion Servet Tazegul of Turkey. Tazegul, known for his spinning kicks, quickly put them on display as he landed two successive two-point back kicks to Jennings’ body to take a 4-0 lead. But Jennings roared back, tying the contest at 4-4 with a three-point head shot just before the end of the opening round.
In the second round, Tazegul again landed a two-point spin kick to go on top 6-4. After both fighters were given simultaneous deductions, the score stood at 7-5 in favor of Tazegul after two rounds.
Jennings scored a point in the third to close to within 7-6 before Tazegul countered with a score of his own to close out an 8-6 victory.
“He’s a good spinner and I got caught with a couple spin hook kicks inside,” said Jennings. “I was trying to close them off but I need to do a better job in my next match. He's such a good and tough competitor, it was hard for me to beat him but in the end it was a good fight. It was a tough match against the world champion."
Said Tazegul of Jennings; “It was a close fight. I was a little bit unlucky to pick up such a strong fighter in my first match of today’s competition.”
Should Tazegul advance to the gold medal match, Jennings will be entered into the repechage round for a chance at a bronze medal.
In the women’s -57kg division, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Diana Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) lost her first match in sudden death overtime to two-time world champion Hou Yuzhuo of China. Hou scored the golden point 28 seconds into the extra frame with a counter kick. Both fighters played a cautious game throughout regulation time, waiting for the other to make the first move, and the match ended scoreless after three periods forcing the overtime.
“I felt stronger than her,” said Lopez. “It was just me going off the line and her tapping my chest protector. I was waiting on her motion and she was doing the same. I thought I played my game pretty well. It was an overtime situation, things happen. That’s taekwondo. You never know what’s going to score.”
Lopez must now play the wait-and-see game, like she did four years ago in Beijing, for a chance to fight for a bronze medal. If Hou advances to tonight's final, Lopez will be put into the repechage round and will need to win two straight matches to claim one of the two bronze medals awarded.