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Yang's inspirational era gives hope to Taiwan taekwondo

Publication Date : 11-08-2012


Taiwanese Olympic taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chung's London journey ended prematurely.

At a taekwondo quarterfinals match Wednesday, the medal-hopeful, and one of very few Taiwan-native sportswomen who has enjoyed international fame, lost to her Thailand counterpart in a score of 0-6, shattering her hope to clinch a medal at the Summer Olympics.

The result is definitely heartbreaking for Yang, 27, who previously announced that the London Games could be her last Olympics.

The quarterfinals finish for one of the best-known names in Taiwan sports is equally heartbreaking for nationals who were eager to witness Yang's shining moment in London.

Ever since her Olympic debut four years ago in Beijing, the Taipei native has gained national fame even though she also failed to clinch a medal in 2008. But her dazzling appearance and trademark smile have made her a favourite in her home country, winning her the nickname “pretty baby”.

But what really put her in the spotlight and ultimately gained international fame was the 2010 “sockgate” controversy. During the Asian Games held in China's Guangzhou province, Yang was disqualified from the 49-kilogram division match with 12 seconds left in the first round because the judges decided that her electronic socks did not meet official requirements even though they had been approved in a pre-match inspection.

Yang's controversial disqualification ignited public outrage in Taiwan and even triggered a wave of anti-South Korean protests within the country. Some Taiwanese directed their anger at South Korea, because the technical official who disqualified Yang was a Philippine national of Korean descent and Yang Jin-suk, who gave inconsistent explanations of why Yang Shu-chun was disqualified, is a South Korean-born US citizen.

To show her resolution to fight until justice prevails, Yang later filed an appeal to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport regarding her case. Surprisingly, the taekwondo athlete later decided to drop arbitration, reportedly because of pressure from the Taiwanese Taekwondo Association, a decision heavily criticised by many.
The series of incidents centering on Yang for months have put her in an awkward position and has definitely piled even more pressure on her.

But even with all these ups and downs, Yang, wearing her usual smile, carried all the weight on her shoulders. A hardworking athlete, Yang focused on her game and prepared well for London. Many people predicted she had high chances of winning a medal for Taiwan.

Sadly the result did not turn out as we had hoped.

While expressing pity for Yang, it would be pertinent to point out that the end of her era also serves as a warning to the field of Taiwanese taekwondo.

As Yang said herself after losing in London, Taiwanese taekwondo athletes have to make adjustments in the wake of increasing difficult competition on the world stage.

For one thing, taekwondo is now using a new electronic scoring system that could help to eliminate controversy in matches.

Traditionally, scoring was done manually by four corner judges and points were only awarded if three of the four judges registered a blow simultaneously.

The transformation is of good intention but as Yang noted, Taiwanese taekwondo athletes have yet to adapt to the new system, which requires a major change to how players are trained.

The possible retirement of Yang also reminds us of the nation's need to cultivate new blood.

It's good news that as we say goodbye to Yang, we also witness a rising star, 20-year-old Wei Chen-yang, although he also lost his chance to compete in the semifinals.

Bidding farewell to Yang's era, Taiwanese taekwondo needs to make timely fine-tuning so that the country, once dominant in the sport, can continue to shine. After all, taekwondo has always been the nation's top medal-producing sport at the Summer Games, with Taiwan's fighters claiming seven medals to date at the Summer Games.


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