It’s what dreams are made of…landing the winning kick as time expires to win a medal on the world’s biggest stage, the Olympic Games. But for first-time Olympian Terrence Jennings (Alexandria, Va.), he won’t be waking up from this dream because he did just that on Thursday at London’s ExCel Centre, winning a bronze medal in the men’s -68kg division.
With the score tied 5-5, Jennings, 26, landed a three-point head shot against Brazil’s Diogo Silva as the clock ran out in their bronze-medal showdown. But nobody was sure if the kick had landed before time expired. U.S. Coach Juan Moreno asked for a video review and the replay confirmed that the head shot landed before the clock ran out, giving Jennings the bronze.
Jennings 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.”
After Tazegul advanced to the final, Jennings had a second life and took full advantage of the opportunity. He scored a 3-2 win over Ukraine’s Hryhorii Husarov in the first repechage round, setting up his bronze-medal showdown with Silva.
“After losing the first match of the day I had to focus and make the bronze medal my gold medal,” said Jennings. “The last two matches were about closing it out and being as efficient as possible. I gave up two shots at the end, but I fought to the last second and it paid off. I knew I made contact with his head I just didn’t know if it scored before time ran out.”
Tazegul would claim the gold medal with a win over Iran’s Mohammad Bagheri Motamed, with Afghanistan’s Rohullah Nikpah winning the other 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 was also thrust back into the competition via the repechage round when Hou advanced to the final, but she lost her next match to Finland’s Suvi Mikkonen, 9-4. After Lopez went out in front 1-0, Mikkonen scored two straight three-point head shots to take control of the match. However, Mikkonen came within one warning of being disqualified from the match for excessive penalties. She was given seven warnings (kyong-gos) for various infractions, an eighth would have given Lopez the victory.
“I tried my best,” said Lopez. “I almost got her kyong-go’d out. They weren’t calling the holding early on and that is how she got her two head shots.”
Competition resumes on Friday with Steven Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) in the men’s -80kg division and Paige McPherson (Sturgis, S.D.) in the women’s -68kg division.