Bradly Sinden had to settle for a heartbreaking silver medal after losing his -68kg men’s taekwondo final to Ulugbek Rashitov of Uzbekistan.
The Briton led with eight seconds left on the clock but teenager Rashitov pulled off a dramatic head kick before hanging on for a 34-29 success.
It was a disappointing end to a successful day for the Doncaster 22-year-old, who had barged his way to the final with three successive high-scoring displays. Rashitov had eliminated top seed Daewoon Lee in his second bout and it was immediately apparent he would present a serious threat to Sinden’s hopes of claiming Team GB’s first gold of the Games.
After a predictably cagey opening two minutes, the Uzbek came on strong in the dying seconds of the opening round to establish a 13-8 advantage. It was an initiative he did not look like surrendering in the second, where his unerring accuracy at close-quarters twice saw him extend his lead to seven points. But just as he had in his semi-final, Sinden buckled down and a head kick right at the end of the round saw him claw the deficit back to a fully retrievable four at 14-18.
Two trunk kicks brought Sinden back to level in the first part of the second round, and Sinden looked to have seized the advantage when he turned his former deficit into a four-point lead.
In a frenetic final half-minute, first the Uzbek regained a two-point advantage before Sinden swung the bout back in his direction going into the final 10 seconds. In a repeat of Lutalo Muhammad’s last-gasp heartbreak in Rio four years ago, Sinden’s hopes of gold were ended with eight seconds left on the clock when a head-kick from Rashitov effectively sealed his dramatic victory.
Asked to describe his immediate feelings, Sinden told the BBC: “Disappointment. I think it was my gold medal to give away. Obviously he is a good fighter. I made a few mistakes, I think I was unlucky with a few things but that’s taekwondo, you have to go with what scores on the system.
“Twice I had him but I made mistakes and let him come back in and you have got to applaud that from him. He did well to do that and then that back-kick at the end, you have got to congratulate him for what he did. The few mistakes I made, he got me from it. Well done to him and you will see me again in Paris.
“Maybe eventually [I will feel proud], but you are here to get gold and anything else that comes you are not here to celebrate. My coach always said that silver is the best loser. Maybe eventually I will get over it but for now it has got me that I didn’t win gold where I think it was there for me to take.”
Sinden’s silver is a lift for the British team after Jade Jones suffered a shock exit in her first contest earlier on Sunday.