|South Korea's Joo Sae-hyuk(from left), Oh Sangeun and Ryu Seung-min diaplay their silver medals after men's team table tennis match with Chna at the London Olympics Wednesday. (London Olympic Joint Press Corps)|
In men's taekwondo, Lee Dae-hoon took second place behind Joel Gonzalez Bonilla of Spain in the under-58-kilogram class. The Spaniard dominated the contest and never trailed in his 17-8 victory, and in the process denied Lee a chance to complete taekwondo's grand slam.
At the ripe age of 20, Lee has already won three of the four major taekwondo titles except for the Olympics: the World Championships, the Asian Games and the Asian Championships.
But he will have to wait another four years, until the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, for that fourth piece of the puzzle. In Wednesday's final, Gonzalez Bonilla jumped to an early 4-0 lead and never looked back. He also had two successful kicks to Lee's head, each worth three points, while Lee couldn't manage any three-point attacks.
In taekwondo's new scoring scale, a kick to the body is worth one point, and a turning kick to the body is two points. A valid kick to the head counts for three, and a spinning kick to the head goes for four points.
Lee later expressed his regret over coming up short in the final, but also said he accepted his defeat.
"I was convinced I'd worked harder than anyone before the Olympics," he said. "But that wasn't good enough this time. That only means I will have to do more in the future."
Lee said Gonzalez Bonilla, ranked No. 1 in under-58kg, caught him off guard early with some unexpected offensive moves.
"He was just smart and savvy with how he managed the bout," Lee said. "He fought a great match, and I didn't have quite the focus I needed early."
Lee normally competes in the under-63kg class, which is not an Olympic category. He had to lose weight for the Olympics, and Lee admitted the process sapped him of some strength.
The next weight class in the Olympics is under-68kg. Lee quipped that he wants to "eat as much as I want and move up a weight class" for Rio de Janeiro.
South Korea's first medal on Wednesday came from table tennis, where the men's team fell to China in the final.
China blanked South Korea 3-0 in the best-of-five team competition. China has now won back-to-back Olympic titles in the men's team event, while South Korea improved upon the bronze it won four years ago in Beijing.
South Korea, with Oh Sang-eun, Joo Sae-hyuk and Ryu Seung-min, entered as huge underdogs. China trotted out three of the top-five players in the world, including Zhang Jike, the world No. 1 and the men's singles champion at these Olympics.
Ryu failed to put up much of a fight against Ma Long in the first singles and lost in four games. Joo held his ground for a bit in the next singles before Zhang regained control and took their match also in four games. Wang Hao and Zhang had an even easier time in the doubles, beating Oh and Ryu in three games.
All three South Korean players are in their 30s. After getting their medals, all three spoke about the need to pass the torch over to younger generations.
Ryu has completed fourth consecutive Olympics, dating back to Sydney in 2000. Despite the loss to China, he said it was still "significant" for South Korean table tennis to face the world's great table tennis power for an Olympic gold.
He also spoke of the need to grow the sport in South Korea.
"They have professional leagues in China and Germany, but that's not the case for us," Ryu said. "We have such a shallow pool of young talent. In this circumstance, winning silver is still a good accomplishment, but we need to have a professional league to get to the top."
Oh, the oldest of the three at 35, said he wanted to share his knowledge and wisdom with younger athletes, and help them win bigger prizes in the future. (Yonhap News)