Cuban Taekwondo Athlete Puts Worst Foot Forward

Cuba's Angel Matos, left, kicks referee Chakir Chelbat in the face during his bronze medal match. Matos was disqualified immediately and may face a lifetime ban.
Cuba's Angel Matos, left, kicks referee Chakir Chelbat in the face during his bronze medal match. Matos was disqualified immediately and may face a lifetime ban. (By Matt Dunham -- Associated Press)

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Associated Press
Sunday, August 24, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 23 -- Cuba's Angel Matos deliberately kicked a referee square in the face after he was disqualified in a bronze medal match, prompting the World Taekwondo Federation to recommend he be banned for life.

"We didn't expect anything like what you have witnessed to occur," WTF secretary general Yang Jin-suk said Saturday. "I am at a loss for words."

Yang also recommended Matos's coach be banned.

Matos was winning his match, 3-2 with 1 minute 2 seconds left in the second round when he fell to the mat after being hit by his opponent, Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov. Matos was awaiting medical attention when he was disqualified for taking too much injury time. Fighters get one minute, and Matos was disqualified when his time ran out.

Matos angrily questioned the call, pushed a judge, then pushed and kicked referee Chakir Chelbat of Sweden, who will require stitches in his lip. Matos spat on the floor and was escorted out.

"This is an insult to the Olympic vision, an insult to the spirit of taekwondo and, in my opinion, an insult to mankind," Yang said.

Matos's coach was unapologetic.

"He was too strict," Leudis Gonzalez said, referring to the decision to disqualify Matos. Afterward, he claimed the match was fixed, accusing the Kazakhs of offering him money.

Although the arena announcer said Matos and his coach were banned effective immediately, Yang said due process must be followed before officially banning the two.

In his first match, Matos defeated Italy's Leonardo Basile, then beat China's Liu Xiaobo, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. But he lost to South Korean Cha Dongmin in the semifinals to land in the bronze medal match.

"To me it was obvious he was unable to continue," Chilmanov said. "His toe on his left foot was broken."

But Chilmanov added: "Rules are rules. I'm happy with my medal."


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