American teen Zolotic triumphs in taekwondo as Jones’s dreams shattered
Jade Jones’s dreams of becoming the first athlete to win three Olympic taekwondo titles were shattered on Sunday as the Briton exited at the last-16 stage in Tokyo, beaten by Kimia Alizadeh of the Refugee Olympic Team.
Alizadeh Iran’s first ever female Olympic medallist when she won bronze in 2016 before defecting in 2020 let out a shriek of delight as she beat Jones 16-12 in the 57kg bout.
Jones’s supporters from Team GB were visibly stunned, with three-time taekwondo world champion Bianca Walkden bursting into tears and having to be led away by another team member.
Alizadeh, who is Germany-based and had defected from Iran in January 2020, did have previous form against Jones, beating her in the 2015 world championships.
Jones said she had few excuses for her under-par performance, although she admitted not having her family present due to coronavirus restrictions had made an impact.
“I’m absolutely gutted — it’s not how I planned my day to go and I’m just really frustrated with myself,” said Jones.
“I just put too much pressure on myself going into it, and I really did feel it more than I expected on the day.
“Not having my family there to push me out of that fear zone really did affect me, and I’m just gutted that I couldn’t have done more on the day.”
Alizadeh’s hopes of equalling or improving on her Rio performance ended with defeat by Tatiana Minina in the semi-final and a loss to Turkey’s Hatice Ilgun in the bronze medal final.
Jones was succeeded as Olympic champion by American teenager Anastasija Zolotic, who beat Russian athlete Minina 25-17 in the final.
Zolotic, 18, whooped with delight as the three-round contest reached its end, ripping off her helmet and running into the arms of her coach.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! I won!,” she yelled, and blew kisses at the camera.
She then picked up an American flag and ran a lap of celebration in a virtually empty arena due to coronavirus protocols — but even that failed to rid her of her smile.
Team GB did not come away empty-handed, as world champion Bradly Sinden took silver in the men’s 68kg category, losing 34-29 to Uzbekistan’s Ulugbek Rashitov.
The 19-year-old trailed his British opponent with eight seconds remaining, but a late head kick secured him the gold and a first-ever Olympic medal for his country in the sport.
Sinden, 22, failed to heed his coach’s advice from the sidelines — “Don’t look at the scoreboard” — with 40 seconds remaining and him leading 23-19.
As Rashitov tumbled to the ground on top of his coach in celebration, Sinden wiped a tear away and stood looking forlornly at a TV screen.
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