We have a new gold medal favorite in what has become one of the most hotly-contested events in Beijing - the Freestyle Poor Sportsmanship. The Swedish wrestler who threw his medal away, Usain Bolt’s 100 meter “taunting” and the boxer who bit his opponent all put up high marks, but with his high degree of difficulty, the performance of Cuban taekwondo fighter Angel Matos might be tough to beat: after losing his bronze medal match, he kicked the referee in the face.
Matos had been disqualified for taking too much time to recover from an injury to his left foot. Enraged, he took it out on referee Chakir Chelbat of Sweden, nailing him with a roundhouse kick with the same injured foot. Too Chelbat’s credit, he stayed on his feet, despite having his lip split by the kick.
Matos also pushed another official and spat on the mat for good measure. Needless to say, Matos has already been banned for life by the World Taekwondo Federation. His coach was also banned, for continuing to argue and cause a scene, even after Matos went on his mini-rampage.
The episode wrapped up an ugly day all around for event officials: American Steven Lopez was steaming after losing a controversial decision in his semifinals, and a Chinese fighter lost a place in the semifinals after a decision was overturned for the first time in Olympics history. If taekwondo is in trouble as an Olympic event as rumored, the last 24 hours certainly haven’t helped its cause to remain on the roster.
What I don’t understand is: if Matos’ foot felt good enough to kick the ref, why couldn’t he have got his butt of the mat and kept fighting?