August 23, 2009
Nia Abdallah raised a ruckus last year after she lost to Diana Lopez in the U.S. Olympic taekwondo trials, claiming she was the victim of biased judging.
Steven Lopez did the same following a defeat in the Olympic quarterfinals.
There’s now far less crying in taekwondo — most tears dried by the implementation of an electronic scoring system that reduced controversy Friday in the inaugural U.S. under-24 national team trials at the Olympic Training Center.
LaJust electronic body protectors (high-tech hogus, or vests) are lined with sensors on the front and sides, and competitors wear electronic socks comprised of stainless steel cloth. When the cloth meets the sensors, points register on a scoreboard near the mat.
Three judges — one fewer than last year — use handheld clickers to record three-point head shots, and a referee still patrols the mat, enforcing infractions. Tests are performed on the hogus before each match, then green lights on the left shoulders confirm they’re working.
USA Taekwondo boss David Askinas said, “It takes away an element of subjectivity. Some of the things that used to score may not score, but you can’t blame a ref for that.”
Olympian Barb Kunkel said competitors are asking, “Where is the best angle to score? … You have to turn the hips over, and your technique has to be a little sharper.”