New taekwondo scoring system to add clarity

Taekwondo's new electronic scoring system is expected to help eliminate any chance of controversy at the Olympics.

The martial art was plagued by scoring issues at the Beijing Olympics, and the results of one heavyweight women's fight were overturned. After nearly being tossed out of the Olympics, taekwondo revamped its scoring system, introducing electronic body protectors that register kicks and punches if they have sufficient force.

"I would be very surprised if there were more protests in London," said Jean-Marie Ayer, secretary-general of the World Taekwondo Federation, the martial art's governing body.

At the 2010 Asian Games, Taiwanese competitor Yang Shu-chun was disqualified near the end of her match when judges ruled she was using illegal sensors on her heels. The controversy prompted Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to call for an official investigation. Yang is set to compete at the London Games when the taekwondo competition begins Aug. 8.

At a rooftop demonstration of the new scoring system Wednesday, Ayer said the changes also make the sport more exciting for fans.

Coaches can use video replay at least once if they want to contest a point. If the technology allows, Ayer said those challenges will be played on a big screen at the London Games, much like Hawkeye replays points at tennis matches.

Kicks to the head, which score the most points in taekwondo, will still be scored by judges. To increase safety, the federation also recently changed its rules: Kicks need only to touch a competitor's head — no force is necessary.

Ayer predicted the taekwondo fights at the London Olympics would be much more action-packed than before. With a smaller fight area and up to four points for head kicks, Ayer said competitors will be motivated to kick high.

"We will definitely see a lot of high kicks that will make the fights very dynamic," he said. "But those kicks will be fast, so people need to pay attention."