Croatia’s Matea Jelic beats Britain’s Lauren Williams in -67kg takewondo final

Down to the last seconds and it was the Croat who took the initiative in a fast paced fight against the Brit winning 24-21; the bronze medals went to Egypt's Hedaya Wahba and Côte d’Ivoire’s Ruth Gbagbi.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The gold medal contest between Croatia’s Matea Jelic and Britain’s Lauren Williams at the Makuhari Messe Hall went toe-to-toe, but it was the Croatian who came out on top, winning Olympic gold, 24-21.

Both went for it from the off, the Croat’s counter-attacking style nullifying the Brit’s attacking method with the first round ending 5-4 and the second session finishing 10-10. With 45 seconds to go in the final round, Williams was 18-13 ahead.

Jelic looked tired but managed to move within three points of Williams with 26 seconds to go. However, with 11 seconds left, the Croat levelled the score 21-21 with a head shot before surging ahead to win gold, 24-21.

“Not enough,” said Williams, who had lived in a caravan with her mum for two years to be able to train with the national team. “I could have had her…. I’m happy with how I performed all day – a silver medal’s not bad, is it.”

Milena Titoneli from Brazil came through the repechage against Haiti’s Lauren Lee by 26 points to five to take her place against Côte d’Ivoire’s Ruth Gbagbi in the first bronze medal match. But it was the experienced Ivorian who added another Olympic bronze medal to her collection. She moved ahead in the last 30 seconds of a tight match with a connected head shot taking her to 12-6 with 10 seconds to go. Great scenes for Côte d’Ivoire as Gbagbi won the first bronze medal, 12-8.

America’s Paige McPherson was ready and waiting for the fighter coming through the second repechage event, which turned out to be Egypt’s recently married Hedaya Wahba (now Malak), who comprehensively beat Tonga’s Malia Paseka 19-0.

There was nothing to choose between the two, only two years between them in age, 1cm in height. Both had one Olympic bronze to their name, but one would move ahead of the other by virtue of winning the match. Nip and tuck in the first two rounds, the American led 5-3 going into the final round. Halfway through the third, McPherson was in the lead, 5-4, until she appeared to twist her ankle, losing momentum.

The Egyptian took advantage and scored two trunks, kicks and a head kick to take an unassailable lead, winning 17-6. Wahba leapt into the air while her coach dropped to the floor in celebration, and an accredited Egyptian crowd provided a noisy backdrop of celebration, especially as the next match, the men’s -80kg featured compatriot Seif Eissa who went on to also claim bronze.