Late drama ends Bianca Walkden’s hopes of gold medal in Tokyo

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Bianca Walkden became the latest British taekwondo star to suffer final-second agony as her dream of Olympic gold came to an end at the Makuhari Hall in Tokyo.

The three-time world champion led South Korea’s Dabin Lee by two points but a three-point head-kick right on the button gave her opponent a 25-24 win and a place in the final.

It echoed Lutalo Muhammad’s last-second loss in his gold medal match in Rio in 2016, and swiftly followed defeats for team-mates Bradly Sinden and Lauren Williams, both of whom had to settle for silver medals after seeing leads overturned late on.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Four
Bianca Walkden struggled with the referee throughout her taekwondo semi-final (Martin Rickett/PA)

Walkden, who was also edged out in the final in Rio before rallying to claim bronze through the repechage, was faced with the prospect of having to raise herself for a similar shot at a place on the podium in the Japanese capital.

But whilst Sinden and Williams will be able to reflect on highly successful campaigns, missing out on gold again will represent a crushing blow for Walkden, who has largely dominated her +67kg category for the best part of a decade.

She had started with an efficient 17-7 win over Cansel Deniz of Kazakhstan but faced a tough test against Lee, like Walkden a reigning world champion but in the higher, non-Olympic 73kg category.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Four
Dabin Lee’s last second head-kick sent the South Korean into the final (Mike Egerton/PA)

Walkden struggled to take control of the contest despite erasing a 3-1 deficit at the end of the first round and heading into the final three minutes locked together at 10-10 with her opponent.

A two-point body kick gave Walkden a brief lead and she went back in front with 10 seconds remaining. As Sinden and Williams had already underscored, 10 seconds is an awful long time in taekwondo.

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