LONDON, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Europe has emerged as a new taekwondo powerhouse at the London 2012 Olympic Games, ending South Korea's dominance in the sport.
The four days of taekwondo competition at ExCeL saw favorites making their way to the top but also surprise winners and historic medalists. A different scoring system and new technology, such as the body protector that registers hits electronically and the video replay, made the sport more transparent and fair.
In London, European taekwondo players collected five gold medals with Jade Jones (Britain, women's -57kg), Milica Mandic (Serbia, women's +67kg), Joel Gonzalez Bonilla (Spain, men's -58kg), Servet Tazegul (Turkey, men's -68kg) and Carlo Molfetta (Italy, men's +80kg). Until London, Europe had produced only one gold medalist, Michalis Mouroutsos (Greece, -58kg).
Spain was the most successful team in the taekwondo competition, with Gonzalez Bonilla's gold and silver medals for Brigitte Yague Enrique (women's -49kg) and Nicolas Garcia Hemme (men's -80kg). China earned three medals too, gold for Wu Jingyu (women's -49kg), silver for Hou Yuzhuo (women's -57kg) and bronze for Liu Xiaobo (men's +80kg).
South Korea was down to one gold and one silver in London. For the first time South Korea failed to collect the maximum of four medals as they had in the Olympic Games since taekwondo was included into the Olympic program in Sydney 2000. The maximum number of entries per NOC is four (two women and two men).
However, Hwang Kyung Seon of South Korea retained her Olympic title and, together with her bronze medal from 2004, she is now the most decorated female athlete in the sport. Another highlight of the event was the exciting final between Molfetta and Anthony Obame of in the men's +80kg decided on a judges' decision after the pair were all square at the end of extra time.
Wu also held on to the title. Beijing gold medallist Maria del Rosario Espinoza (Mexico, women +67kg) settled for the bronze while 2008 Olympic champion Cha Dongmin (South Korea, +80kg) finished off the podium.
The 32 medals went to 21 teams. European countries collected 16 of them.
Some medals were historic firsts. Obame earned Gabon's first Olympic medal in any sport with silver in the men's +80kg. Serbia, Argentina and Colombia picked up their first Olympic taekwondo medals: gold for Sebastian Eduardo Crismanich (Argentina, men's -80kg) and for Milica Mandic (Serbia, women's +67kg) as well as bronze for Oscar Munoz Oviedo (Columbia, men's -58kg). Italy got their first Olympic taekwondo champion in Molfetta.
Taekwondo has been an Olympic sport since 2000. Before London, Asia had won 34 medals, 17 of which were gold. Europe had 21 medals, North America got eight (Steven Lopez's two gold), central and South America earned 13 (three of them gold), Africa and Oceania two each (one gold for Australia). Europe has now brought their medal tally to 37 while Asia has 43, North America now stands at 10, central and South America have 17, and Africa three.
In London, the era of the Lopez family of the United States came to an end. While the three siblings Diana, Steven and Mark Lopez had won a medal each in Beijing (two bronze and one silver), this time Diana and Steven lost their first-round bouts. Mark did not qualify.