Olympics | U.S. grabs first-ever gold in women’s taekwondo, pulls off big upset in fencing

Taekwondo – Women’s Featherweight 49-57kg – Medal Ceremony
Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Taekwondo – Women’s Featherweight 49-57kg – Medal Ceremony – Makuhari Messe Hall A, Chiba, Japan – July 25, 2021. Anastasija Zolotic of the United States celebrates winning gold REUTERS/Murad Sezer

American Anastasija Zolotic defeated Russian Tatiana Minina to win the women’s taekwondo -57kg category gold medal on Sunday.

It was the first time an American woman has won the gold in Olympic taekwondo. 

The 18-year-old defeated Minina, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, who came out in the first round with aggressive kicks to build an early 7-4 lead (points are awarded based on kicks landed against the opponent’s body). 

But Zolotic grabbed the lead late in the first round with a kick to the head, awarding her four points. Late, in the third and final round, Zolotic landed a body blow that knocked Minina to the mat. 

The American held off a late flurry of kicks from the Russian, going on to win the match 25-17 and making history for Team USA. 

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Fencing – Women’s Individual Foil – Medal Ceremony – Makuhari Messe Hall B – Chiba, Japan – July 25, 2021. Gold medallist Lee Kiefer of the United States on the podium REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Meanwhile, US fencer Lee Kiefer clinched her first ever gold medal on Sunday in the individual women’s foil fencing event, beating defending champion Inna Deriglazova in the final.

“To come out here and to feel good about your fencing is what all the athletes strive to do and hope you have a medal at the end, so I have everything,” Kiefer said after the finals.

Deriglazova, who is ranked no. 1 and has taken part in two previous Olympic Games, was a favourite to win the gold medal and steadily won her bouts throughout the tournament.

In the final, the two went point for point, with Kiefer maintaining a slight lead throughout the match.

Deriglazova sometimes attacked with vigor, pushing Kiefer to the edge of the piste, but Kiefer fought back with decisive stabs, the cheers from her team mates growing louder with each point.

After her win, Kiefer screamed with joy and hugged her coach, before rushing to the stands to hug her husband, fellow US foil fencer Gerek Meinhardt.

Deriglazova looked back at her third run in the Olympics as one that was special because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and made clear that she hadn’t given up on taking a gold medal yet.

“I got the silver medal and as of today that is good, but in the team competition we will be able to win gold – let’s hope that,” she said.

With reporting by Robert Pozarycki