Tokyo 2020: Battling Brit Bradly Sinden misses out on taekwondo gold by eight seconds
Thirteen years after he was inspired to dream big by the sight of his fellow Doncaster native Sarah Stevenson winning Olympic bronze in Beijing, Bradly Sinden came within eight seconds of securing Great Britain’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games.
In a dramatic repeat of Lutalo Muhammad’s last-gasp agony five years ago in Rio, Sinden had gold at his mercy as he led by two points with eight seconds remaining before a head-kick by Ulugbek Rashitov gave gold to his Uzbek opponent.
Sinden had blazed through the preliminary stages in the Makuhari Hall, before digging out an epic semi-final comeback over China’s Shuai Zhao to march into the men’s -68kg final on his Olympic debut.
But he faced a test too far in Rashitov, a little-known 19-year-old who had accounted for South Korea’s top seed Lee Daehoon in his second contest, and whose impressive level-headed approach enabled him to rally at the death for a 34-29 triumph.
It was a tough loss to take for Sinden, who told the BBC: “Maybe eventually (I will feel proud), but you are here to get gold and anything else that comes you are not here to celebrate. My coach always said that silver is the best loser.
“Maybe eventually I will get over it but for now it has got me that I didn’t win gold where I think it was there for me to take.”
Sinden’s defeat meant he failed to add to the world title he claimed in Manchester in 2019, and also left Great Britain still waiting to crown a first male Olympic champion in the sport.
Sinden had produced a devastating series of performances to reach the final on his Games debut, racking up 92 points in successive stoppage wins over New Zealand’s Tom Burns and Hakan Recber of Turkey.
In the semi-final, he found himself seven points down midway through the final round against Zhao, the reigning -57kg Olympic champion, before bursting back in the final minute to secure a 33-25 win.
Put into context, even Sinden’s lowest score of his opening three bouts surpassed that of any other athlete in his competition until Rashitov’s belated burst.
Earlier, judoka Chelsie Giles collected Team GB’s first medal. After losing to home favourite and eventual gold medallist Uta Abe at the quarter-final stage in the women’s -52kg category, the repechage offered her an alternative route to a podium place, and she grasped the chance, defeating Belgium’s Charline van Snick and then Switzerland’s Fabienne Kocher by Ippon to take bronze
“It feels very special to do it in Japan,” she said. “It’s an amazing arena, the atmosphere was amazing and to do it where judo started makes it extra special.
“I felt really good in the warm-up and I was taking each fight as it came. It went really well, I believed that I could do it and my coach has always believed I can do it and it showed in my performances.
“I never underestimate any of my fights, I think that’s when mistakes are made, so I go into the fight knowing what they do and knowing what I’m capable of doing.
“With my best performance I know I can beat some of the top players and my performances showed that.”
Meanwhile, Denise Lewis, who won heptathlon gold for GB in Sydney 2000, told ITV News she was not worried about the apparent slow start to this year's Games.
She said that "traditionally" Team GB start slow but that "once we get going, we'll get going well" and the medals would soon come.
Lewis said she loves the Olympics because it is always full of surprises and that favourites do not always win.
She was, however, pretty confident super swimmer Adam Peaty would live up to his red-hot reputation in the pool and bring home Team GB's first gold.