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Friday, August 27, 2004
Jang Ji-won of South Korea grabs gold

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Nia Abdallah's lack of international experience turned out to be her biggest asset in the Olympic taekwondo tournament.

"I don't think anybody expected me to do anything here," she said.

Abdallah won a silver medal in taekwondo Friday, advancing all the way to the final before losing 2-1 to Jang Ji-won of South Korea in the 126-pound (57 kg) class. Iridia Salazar Blanco of Mexico won the bronze.

Later, Hadi Saei Bonehkohal of Iran won the gold medal in the men's 150-pound (68 kg) division, beating Chih Hsiung Huang of Taiwan 4-3. Song Myeong-seob of South Korea got the bronze.

Abdallah, a little-known competitor from Houston, was the first American woman to win an Olympic match in taekwondo, added as an official sport in Sydney in 2000.

"Just me winning my first fight was putting myself in the record books," she said. "I'm happy for what I got."

She beat Margarita Mkrtchyan of Russia in the first round, Cristiana Corsi of Italy in the second and Nootcharin Sukkhongdumnoen of Thailand in the semifinals. Only Mkrtchyan had faced Abdallah before.

"I was a newcomer," said Abdallah, who felt that was an advantage.

In the final, the 20-year-old Abdallah fell behind early and didn't score until the third and last round. Still, she was thrilled with her performance.

"This is an amazing time in my life," she said. "I got a silver medal. Everyone is asking for my picture and everything. I'm just glad to be here."