One of Asia's large family of martial arts, Korean taekwondo is making its debut as an Olympic medal sport. As in boxing and judo, the divisions are determined by weight, and the Olympic format, with the traditional eight classes compressed into four, has forced some champions either to bulk up or lose weight to qualify. Menacing kicks and piston-like punches are judged by how cleanly they strike the scoring areas (head, abdomen and sides) of the opponent. Bouts of three 3-min. rounds are won by knockout, points decision or default.
As undisputed world champs, the Koreans will be under heavy pressure: their public expects at least three taekwondo gold medals. The greatest hopes hang on heavy- weight Kim Kyoung-hun, who is aiming to take out the 80+ kg division over Australian world No. 3 Daniel Trenton and giant Frenchman Pascal Gentil. In the under-80-kg division, Mexican Victor Estrada Garibay is a leading gold-medal prospect, but the two-man teams from Iran, Spain and Chinese Taipei-Korea's main global rivals-will not be giving ground easily.
Korea's Hyang Mi Cho will be hard to beat in the heavyweight class. In the lighter division, world No. 1 American Kay Poe, dubbed the "Tiny Taekwondo Terror," looks like the strongest contender.
WHEN TO WATCH
- 80+kg Sept. 30
- Under-80kg Sept. 29
- 67+kg Sept. 29
- Under-49kg Sept. 27