A “last-second” victory can be a bit of an overused cliché in sports, but the first gold medal in Olympic history for Cote d’Ivoire came with a well-placed kick at the last possible moment.
Cheick Sallah Cisse was trailing by one point in the men’s 80-kilogram taekwondo final when the referee separated him from Great Britain’s Lulato Muhammad. With exactly one second left on the clock, there was time for just one more desperate move: a spinning heel kick to Muhammad’s head that somehow landed in time, earning him three points and an 8-6 victory.
Great Britain’s Lutalo Muhammad, a bronze medallist from London 2012, considered it an agonising last-second defeat as he fell to the Mat in tears. World’s number four, Muhammad who is 25, led 6-4 but was hit by a reverse turning kick with the last action of the final. GB was aiming for their second taekwondo gold of the Games after Jade Jones’ -57kg triumph on Friday. “I’m so distraught,” said a tearful Muhammad after his defeat. “I was so close to becoming Olympic champion and making my dream”.
“I don’t want to cry but I am so sorry to the people that stayed up to watch. I let them down at the last second. This is so hard. “I was so close to being Olympic champion. The emotions are so raw. It’s hard to say how disappointed I am. It should have been gold. I am so upset I can’t speak clearly. “I am absolutely gutted to blow it like that. I’ll have to wait four years for another chance. It’s one of the low points of my life.”
They had not won a medal of any colour since an athletics silver in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 (32 years ago), Gabriel Tiacoh earned a silver medal in the 400 meters, the first medal in the country’s history and the only one until this Olympics. Earlier in the day, Ruth Marie Christelle Gbagbi earned a bronze medal in the women’s -57kg taekwondo for Cote d’Ivoire, making it the second Olympics medal ever for the country.
In a tense final minute, Muhammad appeared to set to claim gold before the Ivorian snatched victory and charged around the arena in jubilation.
Cisse has won Cote d’Ivoire’s first ever Olympic gold and just their third medal at any Games.