SPORTS

A rising force in tae kwon do

The women’s national tae kwon do team ended an impressive third, tied with Spain, at the World Championships in Germany with three medals – a gold and two bronze. The Greek team ended seventh overall – men and women combined – among a field of 108 teams. Areti Athanasopoulou won Greece’s sole gold medal in the 59-kilogram category, while Elli Mystakidou and Kyriaki Kouvari each picked up bronze in the 67 and 72-plus categories, respectively. The South Korean women’s team captured first place with five gold medals, and China ended second with three medals, one each of gold, silver and bronze. Athanasopoulou noted that her gold medal at these Worlds in Germany, which she said was no surprise, came as an ideal leadup to next year’s Athens Olympics. «I expected this medal. I believe in God and whoever believes is rewarded. I saw it in my sleep on Saturday. I dedicate this medal to all who believed in me. I want to thank the [sport’s] federation and the State for their support following my eighth placing at the Sydney Olympics,» said Athanasopoulou, who has been given a military rank. The steady income it guarantees, she said, «allows me to live and train.» Athanasopoulou defeated Mexico’s Iridia Salazar in the final with a 6-5 score for her gold medal. The national team’s head coach, Oh Young Joo, said the gold medalist’s performance in Germany opened new prospects for tae kwon do in Greece. «We’d worked very well. All the team members deserved a place on the medals pedestal. Athanasopoulou’s medal opens up a new chapter for Greece and I’m particularly glad to have contributed,» the Greek team’s coach remarked. «The real contention for medals begins now, this time, however for the Athens Olympics,» he added. In tae kwon do’s brief history as an official Olympic sport, the Greek team has already made an impact. The Sydney Olympics in 2000, where the sport made its Olympic debut, produced a Greek gold medalist, Michalis Mouroutsos.