Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wamwiri, Akinyi beaten

Dickson Wamwiri competes against Mu-Yen Chu of Taiwan during their men's -58 kg taekwondo match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on Wednesday. Photo/REUTERS 

By ELIAS MAKORI in Beijing

On a day Beijing turned into one big reggae concert after Jamaica’s wonder kid Usain Bolt added the 200 metres gold and world record to the gold and world’s fastest ever time he clocked in the 100 metres at the weekend, there was no cause to party for Kenya’s taekwondo pair of Dickson Wamwiri and Milkah Akinyi.

The Beijing National Olympic Stadium’s public address system blasted reggae tunes after Usain bolted to a 19.30 seconds victory in the 200 metres final moments before fellow Jamaican Melanie Walker ran a 54.64-second Olympic record time in the women’s 400m hurdles final to complete a golden night for the Jamaicans.

But, unlike the Jamaicans, Wamwiri and Akinyi were not in a party mood at the Beijing University of Science and Technology gymnasium after falling out of the medals bracket in Kenya’s first taekwondo appearance at the Olympics.

Wamwiri was outpointed 7-0 by world champion Mu-Yen Chu of Chinese Taipei in a the opening flyweight contest the African champion and his coach George Muriu said was fixed in the Chinese Taipei fighter’s favour.

Akinyi also lost 7-0 in her first round fight against China’s Jingyu Wu but the Kenyan was handed a lifeline after the home fighter made it to the final.

Taekwondo rules allow one who loses to an eventual finalist to return to competition and fight in the repechage match for a place in the bronze medal match.

Akinyi took advantage of the provision to defeat Hanna Zajc of Sweden on the superiority rule in their repechage after the pair had tied 2-2.

The Mombasa-based fighter then progressed to the bronze medal match but narrowly lost the medal 1-0 to Venezuela’s Dalia Contreras Riviero.

“My fight against the Swede was my best,” Akinyi said. “I tried to score points from the beginning. It was a bit hard but in the end the points the referees scored for me brought me forward.”

Wamwiri felt he should have been awarded at least five points against his opponent. “I don’t know why the judged did not score for me,” he said.

“I agree my opponent is a world champion and he is good, but I believe I’m better. Anyway, I’m still young and there’s always a next time. I will work hard for the London 2012 Olympics.”

Coach Muriu was livid: “It is very sad what is happening here. African fighters are not being awarded points despite scoring. Wamwiri scored several times but that was not reflected on the board.

“The only way forward will be to have more training programmes and more exposure for our officials and referees, so that we too can have some influence in the international taekwondo system. Anything short of that will mean that we will continue to suffer.”