Cambodia’s fortunes swung wildly from lively anticipation to despair at the Jakarta Convention Center’s Plenary Hall on Tuesday as Sorn Seavmey, the Kingdom’s brightest taekwondo gold medal prospect in the ongoing 18th Asian Games, was knocked out of the women’s +67kg quarterfinals by Uzbekistan’s Svetlana Osipova 5-3 in a hard fought bout.
Not long earlier, the highly motivated Cassandra Nicole Tubbs suffered a heartbreakingly close 18-19 loss to Pham Thi Thu Hien of Vietnam in the women’s -57kg category round of 32.
Defeats for Seavmey, the 2014 Incheon gold medallist, and the rapidly improving Tubbs came as a shock to the Cambodian camp, which was in a bouyant mood on Tuesday morning when the 2017 SEA Games Gold medallist and Rio Olympics qualifier – and the Kingdom’s most popular athlete – was given an easy path to the quarterfinals after her Sri Lankan last-16 opponent Ranuri Wanthila Wikramasinghe withdrew from the event.
Although a two-hour wait for her clash with Osipova may have added an anxiety, Seavmey looked calm and confident in her red robe, while her rival would have gained sharpness and cofidence from her last-16 victory.
‘I accept the outcome’
As each put evasive tactics to good use, a body kick from the Uzbek was enough to give her a first round advantage of 2-0.
With both contestants more or less evenly matched physically, it boiled down to mental agility and toughness, and Seavmey showed her ability to hustle when she landed a head kick worth three points. That not only put her ahead on the board but also helped her change the dynamic of the fight itself, although it grew increasingly fierce as time ticked by.
A mistimed kick exposed Seavmey to a retaliatory body kick from Osipova who took the lead at 4-3. As they went all out at each other, a crucial penalty point against Seavmey doomed her chances.
In the end it was an equal matchup where the inner strength of fighters from former Soviet countries made the difference. They famously never give up easily, and Osipova proved that point, just as Croatia had done against England in the recent World Cup in Russia.
Aside from all-round disappointment and shattered hopes, there was not much of a reaction from the Cambodian camp.
But Seavmey chose to immediately take to social media to convey her disappointment. She profusely apologised to her legions of fans on her Facebook page, saying that she was sorry she could not bring a medal back to the Kingdom.
Her teammate Tubbs had earlier made up a 2-8 deficit to take a 18-17 lead with four seconds remaining before the Vietnamese produced a two-point body kick to beat the clock.
The officials stopped the fight seconds from the end for a review and awarded the crucial points to Hien.
In an interview with the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia’s Olympic Channel, Tubbs said she was totally taken by surprise when the fight was abruptly stopped and the points awarded to her opponent.
“I clearly did not understand the situation,”she said. “But I accept the outcome and I will continue to train hard and try to do well in the future,” she said.