SPORTS

Jordanian taekwondo hero wants to learn from Korean rival

By Alex Park
  • Published : Jun 28, 2017 - 17:28
  • Updated : Jun 28, 2017 - 17:28

MUJU -- Jordanian taekwondo star Ahmad Abughaush is best known as the first athlete from his country to win an Olympic medal after taking gold in the men's 68kg category at last year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

But in the minds of South Korean sports fans, he'll forever be linked with the homegrown athlete, Lee Dae-hoon, who lost to Abughaush in the quarterfinals. It wasn't so much the result as what transpired afterward that has stuck. Lee, the gracious loser who later won bronze, applauded the winner on the mat before grabbing his hand and raising it upward to congratulate Abughaush.

The gesture also touched Abughaush, one of the sport's emerging stars at 21.

"When Lee raised my hand, I was very happy," he said Wednesday during the World Taekwondo Federation World Taekwondo Championships at T1 Arena in Muju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul. Abughaush took bronze in the under-68kg on Tuesday, while Lee captured the gold.

"Even in Jordan, people were surprised to see such great sporting spirit," Abughaush said through an interpreter. "Lee made a great example, and I'd like to learn that from him."

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. Lee won the gold medal and Abughaush grabbed one of two bronze medals at stake. (Yonhap)
The two athletes could have renewed their budding rivalry here in the final, as they were on opposite sides of the bracket. Lee took care of his end by cruising to the final, but Abughaush was stunned by a 20-year-old from Chinese Taipei, Huang Yu-Jen.

Lee admitted later he was disappointed not to have had his chance at revenge, and said the final against Abughaush would have been more entertaining. Lee dispatched a badly overmatched Huang 26-8 in an anti-climactic final.

Abughaush shared Lee's sentiments.

"I was very sad," he said. "But we'll face each other again many times in the future."

The two never met on the mat, but were instead reunited on the podium. The fate was reversed this time, with Lee standing at the top and Abughaush at the bottom as one of two bronze medalists.

But one thing that didn't change was sportsmanship, as Lee again reached out and grabbed Abughaush's hand.

At just 21, Abughaush said he knows he has a lot of taekwondo left in him.

"I've been doing taekwondo since I was five, and this is my life," he said. "I want to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics directly as one of the top six in the world, and get one of the medals there." (Yonhap)