Cuban Taekwondo Champ Banned for Life After Kicking Referee

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A Cuban taekwondo athlete and his coach were banned for life after Angel Matos kicked the referee in the face following his bronze-medal match disqualification.

Cuban coach Leudis Gonzalez offered no apology for Matos' actions during the men's over-80 kg match.

Matos was winning 3-2, with 1:02 in the second round, when he fell to the mat after being hit by his opponent, Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov. He was sitting awaiting medical attention when he was disqualified for taking too much injury time. Fighters get one minute, and Matos was disqualified when his time ran out.

Matos angrily questioned the call, pushed a judge, then pushed and kicked referee Chakir Chelbat of Sweden. Matos then spat on the floor and was escorted out.

"He was too strict," Gonzalez said, referring to the decision to disqualify Matos. Afterward, he charged the match was fixed, accusing the Kazakhs of offering him money.

"This is a strong violation of the spirit of taekwondo and the Olympic Games. The sanctions are the following and are effective immediately: Lifetime ban of the coach and athlete in all championships sanctioned by the [World taekwondo Federation] and at the same time, all records of this athlete at the Beijing Games will immediately be erased," said the announcer, reading a WTF release.

In his first match, Matos defeated Italy's Leonardo Basile, then beat China's Liu Xiaobo 2-1 in the quarterfinals. But he lost to South Korean Cha Dong-min in the semis to land in the bronze-medal match.

"To me it was obvious he was unable to continue," Chilmanov said. "His toe on his left foot was broken."

Matos won the gold medal in this division at the 2000 Sydney Games, dedicating the victory to his mother, who died on the day of the opening ceremony. At the 2004 Athens Games, he finished 11th.

Matos' tantrum followed a day of confusion on the mats.

Earlier Saturday, China's double gold medalist Chen Zhong crashed out in the quarterfinals after initially being declared the winner.

The day was rife with upsets.

Working her way through the easier of the two pools, Norway's relatively unheralded Nina Solheim won her first two bouts with a comfortable point margin and defeated 2005 world champion Natalia Falavigna of Brazil in the semis to meet world champion Maria del Rosario Espinoza of Mexico for the over 67-kg (147.4 pounds) title.

Espinoza won the final, going ahead in the first round and never falling behind. The final score was 4-1.

She had her hands full getting through the quarters 4-2 against Sweden's Karolina Kedzierska, who launched several high kicks that did not connect. Espinoza then took on Britain's Sarah Stevenson, the 2006 European champion, in the semis. Espinoza dominated the match, earning her final berth with a 4-1 win.

Espinoza was to fight Chen in the semis, but the judges overturned an earlier ruling and made Stevenson the winner of the quarterfinal bout in which Chen scored in the closing seconds of the second round and then Stevenson tagged her with a head kick -- worth two points -- in the third.

The judges ruled Stevenson's kick wasn't solid enough for points, and Chen was declared the winner 1-0. After Britain protested, and the result was changed to put Stevenson in the semifinal.

The decision brought loud jeers from the crowd. China did not appeal.

It was the first time a match result has been overturned since taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 1990.

"I obviously had scored. I don't know if they weren't watching or what," Stevenson said. "That's one of the things I hate about this sport."

Stevenson won bronze, along with Brazil's Falavigna.

Cha made it four-for-four gold medals for South Korea. In taekwondo, countries are allowed to enter only four athletes.

Cha fell behind when Alexandros Nikolaidis of Greece nailed him with a head kick 15 seconds into the bout. But he came back with a body kick and a head shot of his own to take back the lead, adding another point to go 4-3 going into the third round.

Nikolaidis evened it out at 4-4 with a body kick, but Cha scored with just 18 seconds left to claim the gold in the men's over-80 kg (176 pounds) division.

Daba Modibo Keita of Mali, the 2007 world champion, was defeated in overtime in the quarterfinals by Nigeria's Chika Yagazie Chukwumerije. The Nigerian then went up against Athens silver medalist Nikolaidis.

Nikolaidis scored with a head kick in the third round, then again in the final second to advance to the final.

The bronzes went to Chilmanov, who beat Matos, and Chukwumerije.