He might soon be kicking himself

August 24, 2008
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BEIJING - Cuba's Angel Matos deliberately kicked a referee square in the face after he was disqualified in a bronze medal match, prompting the World Taekwondo Federation to recommend he be banned for life.

"We didn't expect anything like what you have witnessed to occur. I am at a loss for words," said WTF secretary general Yang Jin-suk, who also recommended Matos's coach be banned.

Matos was winning, 3-2, in the second round when he fell to the mat after being hit by his opponent, Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov. Matos 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, who will require stitches in his lip. Matos spat on the floor and was escorted out.

"This is an insult to the Olympic vision, an insult to the spirit of taekwondo and, in my opinion, an insult to mankind," Yang said.

Matos's coach was unapologetic.

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

Although the arena announcer said Matos and his coach were banned effective immediately, Yang said due process must be followed before officially banning the two.

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.

Matos won gold in his division - the over 80-kilograms (176 pounds) - at the 2000 Games, dedicating the win to his mother, who died on the day of the opening ceremony.

Matos's bad behavior followed a day of confusion on the mats and ended the four-day taekwondo competition, which was marred by several protests against judge's calls.

Earlier yesterday, China's double gold medalist Chen Zhong crashed out in the quarterfinals after initially being declared the winner. Maria del Rosario Espinoza, the eventual winner in the women's over 67-kilogram (147.4 pounds) class, was to fight Chen in the semifinals but the judges overturned an earlier ruling and made Britain's Sarah Stevenson the winner of the quarterfinal.

In that bout, Chen scored in the second round and then Stevenson tagged her with a head kick - worth 2 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, the result was changed to put Stevenson in the semifinal. It was the first time a result was overturned since taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 1990. (AP)

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