London 2012 Olympic Preview: Taekwondo

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Michael Magee of Australia (red) in action against Levent Tuncat of Germany (blue) during the Taekwondo preliminary round at the London Prepares LOCOG Test Event for London 2012 at ExCel on December 3, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

With the Olympics right around the corner, Bloody Elbow will be doing previews for all sports related to martial arts. We have already covered the grappling sports of Wrestling and Judo; we started off with Fencing and now we will move on to the high-flying art of Taekwondo.

A point-based striking system of the South Korean martial art, Taekwondo made its Olympic debut as a demonstration sport in 1988 and appeared as a demonstration again in 1992. It was later adopted as a full medal sport in 2000.

Olympic Taekwondo has both male and female events and is contested in four weight-classes: Flyweight is under 128 lbs (58 kg) for men and 108 lbs (49 kg) for women. Lightweight is 128-150 lbs (58 - 68 kg) for men and 108-126 lbs (49 - 57 kg). Middleweight goes from 151-176 lbs (68 - 80 kg) for men and 109-148 lbs (57 - 67 kg). Heavyweight covers anyone weighing above the middleweight requirements.

Contestants fight in a single elimination tournament, with the losers entering a repechage bracket with the winner earning the bronze medal. Each nation is limited to two male and two female competitors in the Olympics, as there are a huge number of athletes worldwide that compete in Taekwondo.

In a match, fighters wear a colored chest guard and colored padded head gear. Points are scored by landing strikes to these surfaces. A kick or a punch to the chest guard is assessed as one point. A kicked that uses a turn or full rotation of the body to the chest is scored as two points. Only kicks to the head are legal, and they earn three points while a spinning kick to the head earns four points. Knocking down an opponent and forcing the ref to start a knock out count earns an additional point.

Matches are three rounds of two minutes and fighters can win by points or knockout. Illegal actions, such as going out of bounds or catching an opponent's kick, result in a warning; two warnings result in a point penalty and four penalties will result in a disqualification.

That covers the basics; lets get to the preview in the full entry. We'll look at a brother-sister team, drama in the British team selection and a former brothel owner seeking Olympic gold.

All in the Family: The Lopez family is the first name in American Taekwondo. Steven Lopez is a five-time World Champion and two-time Olympic Champion at Middleweight. He fell a little short at Beijing, taking bronze. Steven is one of the best Teakwondo fighters in Olympic history and this is likely his last hurrah. His sister, Diana Lopez, also took bronze at Beijing and is the other member of the Lopez family competing in London. She is a threat to take home a medal and it's possible that the Lopez family takes home double gold.

Korean Powerhouse: While Taekwondo is truly a global martial sport with elite competitors from all different countries, its home nation of South Korea still produces some of the best competitors in the world. For men, Cha Dong-Min won Gold in 2008 and Lee Dae-Hoon is coming off a World Championship. And for the women, Hwang Kyung-Seon is a two time World Champion and an Olympic Champion.

Sin of Omission: The story that has dominated the Taekwondo world leading up to this games is the British Taekwondo team passing up #1 World Ranked Aaron Cook in favor of 59th ranked Lutalo Muhammad. Cook left the GB Taekwondo program in June of 2011 after a poor performance at World Championships. Since then Cook has performed extremely well. The GB Taekwondo program faces accusations of bias and that the stonewalling of Cook is an attempt punish him for leaving. Cook threatened legal action but eventually accepted not being apart of the team.

Princes of Persia: Iran has a history of sending very strong Taekwondo competitors to the games and this cycle is no different. Yousef Karami represented Iran in 2004 at Athens and will do so again in London -- he's fresh off his World Championship in 2011 and is currently ranked #2 in the World in the 80+ Kg weight class. Joining Karami is Mohammad Bagheri Motamed, who has made the finals in the two World Championships since Beijing. Motamed will be fighting in the 68 Kg bracket.

Chinese Champion: Yuzhuo Hou burst on to the scene since the 2008 Summer Games, and she has won both World Championships that have taken place since. Jingyu Wu won gold at Women's Flyweight at Beijing and has two World Championship medals at that same weight. Together, they make a fearsome pair.

Nigeria's Medal Hopeful: Chika Chukwumerije won bronze in the 80+ Kg weightclass in 2008 for Nigeria, and represents the nation's best chance at a medal in Taekwondo. Chukwumerije uses his height extremely well in matches and fights very intelligently and tactically. While the field at 80+ Kg is looking very tough, Chukwumerije could be an underdog to win the gold.

French Femme Fatales: France is sending two very dangerous ladies to London in Anne-Caroline Graffe and Marlene Harnois. Graffe is the defending World and European Champion at 67+ Kg. Harnois won bronze at Worlds and also won gold at European Championships, and will appear in the -57 Kg weight class.

Heir Apparent: Italian Mauro Sarmiento took Silver in 2008 to Iranian great Hadi Saei, a two time Olympic Champion. Saei retired after Beijing and now Sariento is a favorite at Middleweight to take home the gold.

Latin Warriors: Mexico produces excellent Taekwondo competitors and defending Heavyweight Olympic champion Maria del Rosario Espinoza will again represent Mexico in this cycle. The Dominican Republic's Yulis Mercedes Reyes has a trophy case full of bronze and silver medals from international competitions, but has never won a gold on the world level. Brazil's Natalia Falavigna took Bronze in Beijing and is returning to the Heavyweight bracket. Cuba also has a strong but largely unknown team.

He Needed the Money: Logan Campbell of New Zealand needed to raise funds for support his Olympic Taekwondo dreams, so he did what any industrious person would, he started a business, in this case a brothel. Prostitution was decriminalized in New Zealand in 2003 and Campbell opened his establishment in 2009, but was forced to sell in 2010 due to pressure from the IOC. The proceeds from the sale enabled Campbell to train full time and qualify for London. Campbell insists that too much is made of this as he was not taking advantage of people in bad economic situations, all employees were there by choice and treated with respect.

2012 Olympic Taekwondo Broadcast Schedule

  • Thursday August 9th: MSNBC 1:30pm - 2:30pm semifinals or finals taped
  • Friday August 10th: NBC Sports 8:00am - 8:30am various weightclasses finals taped
  • Saturday August 11th: NBC Sports 8:00am - 10:00am various weightclasses qualifiers taped
  • Saturday August 11th: MSNBC 2:15pm - 3:00pm 80kg/WOMANs 67kg qualifiers taped

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