SPORTS

Mixed feelings for Korean star as much-anticipated taekwondo rematch fails to materialize

By Alex Park
  • Published : Jun 28, 2017 - 10:52
  • Updated : Jun 28, 2017 - 11:02

MUJU -- It was with a bag of mixed feelings that South Korean taekwondo fighter Lee Dae-hoon learned that a much-anticipated rematch with a Jordanian rival wouldn't happen on Tuesday.

Lee won the gold medal in the men's under-68kg at the World Taekwondo Federation World Taekwondo Championships at T1 Arena in Muju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul. He did so by beating Huang Yu-Jen of Chinese Taipei 26-8 in an anti-climactic final on the center court.

Lee Dae-hoon of South Korea holds up his gold medal in the men's under-68kg at the World Taekwondo Federation World Taekwondo Championship at T1 Arena in Muju, North Jeolla Province, on June 27, 2017. (Yonhap)

With all due respect, Huang, a 20-year-old ranked 42nd in the world, proved to be no match against the No. 1-ranked Lee. Even Lee admitted the final would have been a bit more exciting if the opponent had been the one that many had wanted to see.

Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan was coming up from the opposite side of the bracket from Lee, and they were on a collision course to meet in the final here. It was Abughaush who ended Lee's bid for his first Olympic gold in the quarterfinals of last year's Rio de Janeiro Summer Games. And Abughaush went on to win the gold, the first Olympic medal for Jordan.

Lee did his part by beating Vladimir Dalakliev in the semis, but moments later, Huang ended Abughaush's tournament with a 9-4 upset victory in their semifinals.

Lee acknowledged that the final didn't have quite the buzz that a Lee-Abughaush final would have generated.

"I think it would have been better for the fans if we had fought each other again," Lee said of the Jordanian. "I think the match would have been more fun to watch."

Lee Dae-hoon of South Korea holds hands with Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan during the medal ceremony in the men's under-68kg at the World Taekwondo Federation World Taekwondo Championship at T1 Arena in Muju, North Jeolla Province, on June 27, 2017. (Yonhap)

The South Korean also admitted he was disappointed that he didn't get a chance at revenge, but there was another side to the story.

"At the same time, I would have been nervous facing Abughaush, and it would put some pressure on me," Lee said. "So I was also relieved that he didn't make it to the final."

Despite settling for bronze in Rio, Lee made headlines for his display of sportsmanship after his loss to Abughaush. He applauded the winner on the mat and grabbed Abughaush's hand and raised it in celebration. Lee said at the time he wanted to show everyone he accepted his loss, so that Abughaush would be able to enjoy his victory even more.

This time, it was Lee standing at the top of the podium, with Abughaush taking the bronze.

"It was a strange feeling to be standing on a higher place than in the Olympics," Lee said. "It's a shame we didn't get to meet each other this time. But we'll see each other again many times in the future. I'm not going to feel all cocky just because I finished first here. I'll keep trying hard." (Yonhap)