Taekwondo bouts at the 2012 Olympic Games were contested at the ExCeL London from August 8-11, and featured 128 athletes.
World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) matches take place on an 8m x8m mat called a court. The match consists of three rounds of two minutes each, during which combatants try to dominate one another by using kicks and punches. There is a one-minute rest period between rounds.
Blows must land on the target area in order to score. The target area for hand blows is the front of the body between the waist and the base of the neck (excluding the throat), and the area for foot techniques includes the head as well as the upper body. Combatants wear coloured protective equipment over their white uniforms – which are known as a dobok – on their forearms, shins, heads and upper bodies. The competitor wearing blue is referred to as ‘chung’, while the competitor in red is ‘hong’. Before beginning, combatants bow to each other in a sign of respect.
The match is presided over by a referee and scored by a panel of four judges.
Foot and hand techniques must be executed with control in order to score. If a competitor loses balance after executing a blow, the blow will not count. The scoring protocol has changed since Beijing 2008, in an effort to make the sport safer. One point is awarded for a valid attack to the trunk protector, two points for a valid turning kick to the trunk protector, three points for a valid kick to the head, and four points for a valid turning kick to the head.
If a combatant staggers or falls after receiving a legitimate attack, the referee will stop the match and perform an eight-second count (called a knockdown). If one of the fighters is unable to continue after the eight-second count, his/her opponent is given the victory by ‘knockout.’ If a match ends in a tie score, a sudden death round takes place where the first athlete to score a point wins.
The eight Taekwondo events at the London 2012 Games – four weight categories for men, four for women – were played as a single elimination tournament. The winners of each contest qualified for the next round, with the two finalists going head to head in the gold medal contest. All competitors who lost to one of the finalists entered the ‘repechage’, which eventually determined the winners of the bronze medals.