Fidel Castro defends Cuban taekwondo athlete who kicked judge in the face at Olympics
Fidel Castro defends Cuban taekwondo athlete who kicked judge in the
face at Olympics
By Associated Press
1:53 PM EDT, August 25, 2008
Angel Valodia Matos
Cuba's Angel Valodia Matos, left, kicks match referee Sweden's Chakir
Chelbat in the face during a bronze medal match against Kazakhstan's
Arman Chilmanov in the men's taekwondo +80 kilogram class in Beijing,
Saturday. Matos attacked the official, throwing punches and kicks, after
being declared the loser in his bronze medal match. (Matt Dunham, AP /
August 23, 2008)
HAVANA (AP) _ Fidel Castro on Monday defended the Cuban taekwondo
athlete who kicked a referee in the face at the Beijing Olympics, saying
Angel Matos was rightfully indignant over his disqualification from the
Taekwondo officials want Matos and his coach banned for life from the
sport. But Castro expressed "our total solidarity" for both Matos and
his coach Leudis Gonzalez.
Matos was winning 3-2 in the second round when he fell to the mat after
being hit by his opponent, Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov, and was
disqualified for taking more than his one minute of injury time.
Matos angrily questioned the call, pushed a judge and then pushed and
kicked referee Chakir Chelbat of Sweden, who needed stiches to repair
his lip. Matos then spat on the floor and was escorted out.
Taekwondo officials called Matos' behavior an insult to the Olympic
vision. Matos' coach countered that the match was fixed and accused the
Kazakhs of offering him money.
Castro said the alleged bribery attempt gave Matos good reason to expect
the judges to treat him unfairly.
"They had tried to buy his own coach," Castro wrote in his essay
published in state media. "He could not contain himself."
Cuba is accustomed to winning golds in boxing, but settled this year for
four silver and four bronze medals. Overall, Cuba took home only two
golds, down from nine in Athens four years ago.
"I saw when the judges blatantly stole fights from two Cuban boxers in
the semifinals," Castro wrote. "Our fighters … had hopes of winning,
despite the judges, but it was useless. They were condemned beforehand."
The ailing, 82-year-old ex-president also noted that defections have
taken their toll, blaming "the repugnant mercenary actions" of promoters
who lure Cuban boxers off the island with lucrative contracts.
And Castro hinted that big changes could be in order for Cuban sports,
pledging a serious review of "every discipline, every human and material
resource that we dedicate to sport."
"Cuba has never bought an athlete or judge," Castro wrote, adding that
Cubans need to begin preparing now for London in 2012. "There will be
European chauvinism, judge corruption, buying of brawn and brains …
and a strong dose of racism," he predicted.