WALKDEN’S BRONZE GIVES BRITAIN BEST EVER OLYMPIC TAEKWONDO MEDAL TALLY
Bianca Walkden ensured a record Olympic Games medal haul for Team GB taekwondo stars at Rio 2016.
Heavyweight Walkden’s bronze completed a full set of medals for the Manchester-based squad after gold for Jade Jones and silver for Lutalo Muhammad.
But the success at surpassing the two-medal haul from London 2012 was etched with disappointment for the world champion and fellow heavyweight, Mahama Cho.
Both lost in the semi-finals of their respective +67kg and +80kg weight divisions.
And while Walkden put that disappointment behind her to claim bronze through the repechage by beating Moroccan, Waim Dislam, Cho lost 5-4 to Brazilian home favourite, Maicon Siqueira amid jubilant scenes from his fans at the Carioca 3 Arena.
“I didn’t come for bronze,” said Walkden, beaten for the first time in 2016 and just nine minutes away from a first Olympic final.
“Bronze is a good medal but gold is what we all came here for. And one mistake cost me,” she said of her sudden death defeat to China’s Zheng Shuyin
However, Liverpudlian Walkden didn’t let her second chance of a medal disappear beating African rival Dislam 7-1.
Maicon Siqueira, a 23-year-old former bricklayer, lost 6-1 in the quarter-final to Abdoul Issoufou of Niger but fought back to beat Frenchman M’bar N’diaye to earn his own shot at a medal against Cho.
The ‘Stockwell Slayer’ led 3-1 going into the final round but soon found himself trailing 4-3. Despite the deafening noise Cho hit back to level at 4-all only for the home favourite to snatch victory in the closing stages.
Earlier, Walkden’s 5-0 quarter-final win over defending champion Milica Mandic suggested she could go all the way to the gold.
Instead, tears flowed after her last four knock out to Chinese nemesis, Zheng.
The 2015 World Championship runner-up at -73kg was the last athlete to inflict defeat on Walkden at the World Grand Prix in Mexico last December.
Since then ‘Queen B’ had been invincible including a European title among her gold medal haul
The pair couldn’t be separated after normal time and went into golden point deadlocked at 1-1.
With the extra two minutes ticking down it was Zheng who advanced to the final to face Mexico’s Maria Espinosa – where she eventually went on to win gold beating Espinoza 5-1.
Cho, who won the European Olympic qualification tournament in Turkey last January, fought superbly to knockout London 2012 silver medalist, Anthony Obame 12-6 in the opening round.
It didn’t get any easier in the quarter-finals as second seed, Sajjad Mardani, blocked Cho’s path to the last four. It proved a nail-biter and Cho recovered from surrendering a lead in the final round to take the bout on golden point.
Another formidable opponent, Radik Isaev, opposed Cho in the semis. The reigning World and European Games champion left it late but a head shot wrecked Cho’s chance of gold before Siqueira broke his heart.
“I gave it my absolute everything but it’s just disappointing not to come away with something from all the hard work me and my team have done together. One of us had to lose and unfortunately that was me.
“I want to congratulate him. He played well and played the game high. It’s heart-breaking to lose but it’s part of the game. I wouldn’t have counted on me even being here but a lot of sacrifices were made from my family and friends.
“The amount of support they have given me just to get me here is unbelievable and I have to thank them. Everybody who knows me knows that I don’t quit that easily. I’m going to have step back now and put my feet up for a bit and then come back for the next cycle.
“The team that was here is one of the most formidable around. They’ve done a great job and I’m exceptionally happy for them and proud of them for what they have done.”