Sunday, August 29, 2004
Moon KOs Greek fighter for gold
ATHENS, Greece -- South Korea's Moon Dae-sung unleashed a
wicked roundhouse kick that knocked out local favorite Alexandros
Nikolaidis of Greece in the first round of Sunday's taekwondo
Moon was leading 1-0 when he landed a high kick to the Greek
fireman's head. The blow knocked Nikolaidis' helmet askew and he
collapsed on the mat for several seconds before officials helped
Nikolaidis got the silver medal, while Pascal Gentil of France
defended his bronze from the 2000 Sydney Games in the over
80-kilogram category, beating Jordan's Ibrahim Kamal 6-2.
Moon said his knockout kick was a "mistake.''
"My left leg is not very strong. I was busy defending myself
and he stepped on me with his right foot, so I kicked him with my
left foot without realizing that I knocked him out,'' he said.
Moon missed the Sydney Games after injury troubles in training
and said he became depressed for a while afterward.
"After this victory I have forgotten everything,'' he said.
In the women's 67-kilogram final, China's Chen Zhong fought off
an assault from Myriam Baverel of France and won 12-5 to defend her
gold medal from Sydney.
Adriana Carmona of Venezuela took the bronze.
Moon, the 1999 world champion, raised his hands in celebration
while Nikolaidis regained his bearings.
After several minutes, the Korean went over to his opponent and
the pair embraced before Moon held the Greek's arm up, to the
crowd's delight. They paraded around the arena hand in hand.
"I was touched,'' Nikolaidis said. "I've known him for many
years. We've trained together and he's the man I have the best
relations with in taekwondo.''
Nikolaidis is 6 feet 7, and most of his competitors have a
difficult time lifting their legs high enough to connect with his
target points. The 6-3 Moon caught Nikolaidis off guard and landed
the rarest of knockout kicks to claim his first Olympic gold medal.
"I have had many knockouts in my 20 years in taekwondo and I
can't count them,'' Moon said. "When you fight someone on the same
level it is rare, but it is quite common when you face weaker
Nikolaidis broke his leg during the 2000 Sydney Games and was
out two years before returning to the sport in 2002.
"The truth is I don't remember much,'' he said. "It all
happened so quickly. I started with a lot of enthusiasm and it
seems I paid for it.''
With 8,000 mostly Greek fans filling every seat of the seaside
Sports Pavilion, the atmosphere at the martial arts contest
resembled a rock concert. The match pitted the Olympic hosts
against a South Korean competitor who hails from the ancient
birthplace of the sport.
Fans chanted "Hellas'' -- the Greek word for Greece -- and
"Nikol-aidis, Nikol-aidis'' -- even after their countryman was