London, Aug. 10 (CNA) It was a dream come true for Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Tseng Li-cheng when she overwhelmed her Finnish opponent in a shortened match to bag a bronze medal of the London Olympics Thursday.
"It's incredible that I can represent our country in winning a coveted medal at the world's most prominent sporting event," said the 25-year-old taekwondo fighter.
Tseng beat Suvi Mikkonen of Finland 14-2 to take a bronze in the women's under 57kg category, the second medal Taiwan grabbed at this year's Games.
The bout ended when Tseng pulled ahead by 12 points 24 seconds into the third round. Competitors with 12-point leads in taekwondo bouts are automatically given a "win on points gap."
"Knowing this would be my last bout, I gave it everything I had," said Tseng, who entered the Olympics as the world No. 1 in her weight class. "I used all the experience and skills I had picked up over the past decade."
A member of the Amis aboriginal tribe, Tseng admitted that she felt a pang of regret that she could only fight for a bronze medal rather than gold.
In the semifinals, Tseng actually led the United Kingdom's Jade Jones 2-1 after two rounds, and was ahead 3-2 with 45 seconds left in the bout.
But two quick kicks by Jones and a penalty against Tseng put her behind 5-3 with 23 seconds to go.
Desperate to come back, Tseng launched a kick toward Jones' head that would have been worth three points -- and the lead -- had it hit. When the kick wasn't awarded, Tseng's coach appealed, but after a video review, the appeal was rejected.
Tseng, who thought the kick hit its mark, said that if the review panel had accepted the appeal, she would have had a good chance of making it into the gold medal match.
Instead, as she desperately flailed away in the final 15 seconds, she left herself exposed, and Jones picked up a handful of points with precise defensive kicks and won the bout 10-6.
Jones went on to win her country's first Olympic taekwondo gold, beating China's Hou Yuzhou 6-4 in the final.
Tseng gave her coach Tang Hui-ting a tight hug after receiving the bronze medal in the award ceremony. She then circled the arena, the country's Olympic flag in hand, to greet spectators, including many Taiwanese expatriates who turned up to cheer for her.
"I really want to thank my coach. I wasn't easy to deal with but she continued to put up with me," the bronze medalist said.
Tseng's was competing in her first -- and likely last Olympic Games -- after just missing berths in 2004 and 2008.
She was the country's first taekwondo fighter ever to win an Olympic medal in the women's under 57kg category.
Chi Shu-ju won a bronze in the women's under 49kg category at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Chen Shih-hsin bagged gold in the same category in Athens in 2004.
Tseng took up taekwondo together with her siblings during her childhood. She has since taken part in many international competitions, including the East Asian Games, the Asian Games, and regional and world championships.
The 25-year-old nearly missed out on her spot in London, having lost in the first round of a domestic qualifying tournament before pulling back and winning a berth in the final stage of competition.
Tseng said her next goal is to finish her master's at National Taiwan Sport University.
She is the second Amis athlete from Taitung in eastern Taiwan to clinch an Olympic medal. Yang Chuan-kuang won silver in the decathlon in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Yang died in early 2007 from a massive stroke.
(By Lung Po-an, Lee Yu-cheng and Sofia Wu)