TOKYO - Largo native Anastasija Zolotic won the United States’ first gold medal in Olympic women’s taekwondo by defeating Russian Tatiana Minina 25-17 to claim the featherweight division title Sunday.
The 18-year-old Zolotic lets out a primal scream as she pulls on her helmet before each round. She has been telling friends and family since early childhood that she would be an Olympic champion and she needed only one trip to the Games to make it happen.
Zolotic and Minina had a high-scoring first round and a tactical second but Zolotic picked apart her Russian opponent in the third with two-point body kicks after nursing a one-point lead into the final round.
Zolotic was only the fourth American to reach an Olympic taekwondo final and only the second woman. Steven Lopez won the U.S. team’s only two previous Olympic golds in taekwondo.
On the men’s side, Ulugbek Rashitov won Uzbekistan’s first Olympic taekwondo gold medal in dramatic fashion by beating Bradly Sinden of Britain.
The 19-year-old Rashitov landed a four-point turning body kick inside the final 15 seconds to turn a two-point deficit into a two-point lead and the featherweight hung on for a 34-29 victory to claim Uzbekistan’s first-ever medal in taekwondo.
Rashitov is relatively inexperienced on the world stage, but his success echoes Uzbekistan’s major strides in combat sports, including the Uzbek boxing team’s breakthrough performance in Rio de Janeiro.
Sinden fell agonizingly short of becoming Britain’s first male Olympic gold medalist in taekwondo, a popular domestic sport with an impressive list of international women’s champions. Two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones failed in her bid for a third straight gold earlier Sunday with a shocking loss to the Refugee Olympic Team’s Kimia Alizadeh.
In other events:
Lee Kiefer earned the third gold medal for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics by beating defending champion Inna Deriglazova of Russia 15-13 in the women’s foil final.
Kiefer is a four-time NCAA champion at Notre Dame. She placed fifth at the 2012 London Games and was 10th at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
It’s the third Olympic gold for the U.S. fencing team. Mariel Zagunis won in saber at the 2004 and 2008 Games.
Romain Cannone won France’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games by beating Gergely Siklosi of Hungary 15-10 in the men’s epee final.
Cannone led 14-9 after two periods in the first-to-15 match and ended it quickly in the third. The 24-year-old Cannone was born in France but grew up in the United States and attended Sacred Heart University. He returned to France in 2016 to boost his chances of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
Igor Reizlin of Ukraine won the bronze with a 15-12 victory over Andrea Santarelli of Italy.
Chen Lijun kept China’s perfect record in weightlifting intact with victory in the men’s 67-kilogram class at the Tokyo Olympics.
Chen lifted 187 kilograms in the clean and jerk for a total 332 kilograms to beat Luis Javier Mosquera of Colombia by one kilogram. Chen was in the position of either winning gold or finishing off the podium after increasing weight to beat Mosquera.
China has won all three weightlifting gold medals so far in Tokyo. Chen’s victory comes five years after cramps forced him out of the competition at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Mirko Zanni of Italy lifted 322kg for the bronze medal.