André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
It was a brave effort, but in the end, Jamaica's first entrant in the Taekwondo at the Olympic Games, Kenneth Edwards didn't get the victory.
He stepped on the floor to quizzical looks, as spectators looked on in skepticism; after all , Jamaica is not known on this stage as a taekwondo nation. But when he walked off, despite suffering a 4-6 loss to Asian champion and number six-seeded Liu Xiaobo, Edwards had the crowd chanting 'Jamaica Jamaica', a testament to his effort during the entertaining contest.
At 6' 7", Xiaobo started with a clear advantage over the Jamaican and raced to a 4-0 lead in the first of the three, two-minute rounds contested.
Edwards, who was the aggressor throughout the contest, tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to break the Chinese's defence and paid the price after some well-timed counters by the lanky Chinese fighter.
The Jamaican was then charged a point after he continued to fight after the official had signalled a pause, but rallied well to finally connect with one of his many attempts at Xiaobo's head, registering three points under his name. The Chinese competitor was charged twice for leaving the fighting area adding a point to Edwards' tally but got a point of his own before running down the clock, avoiding the Jamaican and seeing out the contest.
Edwards, who would have been entered in a repechages for a chance at one of the two bronze medals handed out for Taekwondo had Xiaobo progressed to the final, was left disappointed as the Chinese lost on a penalty point to Italian Carlo Molfetta, 5-6.
"This experience has been fantastic, absolutely great," said Edwards. "For Jamaica to come in here and show what we are made of in front of the Asian champ, it's been a great experience."
"He had a much longer reach, so the headshots would have been vital to counter, but as you saw, he was very cautious and he kept running back and that kind of threw the game plan off a little bit," Edwards noted.
"He was super tall but we planned for it and that's what got that headshot in pretty significantly, if he wasn't clinching and holding so much, our inside work would have been more effective, but he is a very strong fighter and when I locked in, he held on tight and it's kind of hard to get a 200-pound man off you," said Edwards, who said that he was spurred on by the support from the crowd.
"That was tremendous," said Edwards. "The crowd really boosted me a lot, I felt really comfortable in there and with millions watching all over the world, I think the big stage is next for me."
Edwards' effort was also lauded by Jamaica Olympic Association president Mike Fennell, who was in the Mixed Zone to congratulate the Jamaican on his performance.
"I thought Kenneth did extremely well, this is our first time in Taekwondo and all of us can be truly proud with how he performed," Fennell said. "He performed very creditably and if I could understand the scoring system better, I thought he had the better of the Chinese athlete on several occasions."
Edwards in the meantime, vowed to keep working hard on his development in the sport, underlining that this will be aided by proper support and exposure.
"I just need to keep developing in the sport and hopefully with some proper funding and support, my game will be lifted, and I will be able to travel some more and get some more exposure," said Edwards.