TOKYO – Anastasija Zolotic entered these Olympics as a young taekwondo star, one with potential to impact the sport in years to come. She’ll leave the Tokyo Games as the first American woman to win gold in the sport.
The 18-year-old beat Russia’s Tatiana Minina in the under 57 kg bout at Makuhari Messe Hall 25-17, using an aggressive first round to set the tone and strategic strikes in the third to seal her win.
Zolotic has been one of the USA’s rising stars, winning gold at junior worlds and a silver in the Youth Olympics. But until her competition here, Zolotic’s biggest win had been Pan Am gold.
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By the time Zolotic advanced to the gold medal contest, she had seen the field cleared of the biggest medal contenders. Britain’s Jade Jones, who had won the past two Olympic golds, lost in the round of 16. Korea’s Ah-reum Lee has a world championship gold and bronze since the Rio Olympics, but she too lost in the round of 16.
Zolotic herself beat Turkey’s Hatice Kubra Ilgun, who is ranked No. 2 in the world, in the quarterfinals. Ilgun went on to claim bronze.
But Zolotic didn’t just get a lucky draw. Minina is ranked fourth in the world.
In the final, both came out aggressively, with each landing one head kick and two trunk kicks in the first 70 seconds. Zolotic edged ahead with a trunk kick to close the round and weathered a tentative second with little scoring.
In the third, Zolotic pulled away with three trunk kicks and a penalty point that extended her lead to 23-14. Minina landed one head kick and tried for several more in the waning moments, but Zolotic kicked Minina in the trunk as time expired to solidify her win.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Anastasija Zolotic wins Olympic gold to make history in Tokyo