Saturday, August 11, 2012
Anthony Obame wins silver
LONDON -- Anthony Obame made Olympic history just by losing.
The 23-year-old Obame lost in the men's taekwondo heavyweight final, but still became the first person from Gabon to ever win an Olympic medal.
And he came oh so close to gold.
Fighting Carlo Molfetta of Italy in the plus-80 kilogram division, Obame lost by decision after the pair remained tied through a tense bout that went into overtime.
"I think it's a good start for us," Obame said. "For now it's just me, but I hope that other people from Gabon will win medals at other Olympic Games and have the same success."
Obame trains in France and was seeded fifth at the London Games after making it to the third round at the world championships last year. After winning his semifinal match in the last second, Obame collapsed to the mat in victory. His coach ran up to hug him, jumping up and down.
And after clinching a spot on the podium just by reaching the final, Obame said it was "a fantastic sensation" to know he would win his country's first Olympic medal.
His next goal is to compete at more international events to gain more experience, and maybe a return to the Olympics for the 2016 Rio Games.
Before reaching the final, Molfetta resorted to jump kicks to reach 6-foot-6 Daba Modibo Keita of Mali in the semifinals. Both players requested video replays for disputed points, but Molfetta came through as the winner.
"I never gave up because I wanted an Olympic medal," Molfetta said. "It's a present to myself."
The bronze medals were won by Robelis Despaigne of Cuba and Liu Xiaobo of China.
For South Korea, the country that invented taekwondo, it was a disappointing end to the competition. Their fighters only managed to win one gold and one silver this week.
In the women's heavyweight division, Milica Mandic of Serbia won her country's first Olympic gold of the London Games. She upset top-seeded Anne-Caroline Graffe of France 9-7 in a tight final.
"I'm proud of my silver medal, though I was expecting to get gold," Graffe said.
In earlier rounds, Mandic knocked out two of the division favorites -- defending Olympic champion Maria Espinoza of Mexico and second-ranked Anastasia Baryshnikova of Russia. Espinoza later won a bronze medal, and the other bronze went to Anastasia Baryshnikova of Russia.
The 20-year-old Mandic was frequently on the offensive Saturday, often striking her opponents first with a targeted kick to the body before quickly retreating so they couldn't counter-attack.
"I just can't believe it," said Mandic, who won a bronze at last year's world championships. "I'm so proud I did it for my country."