LONDON, England (AP) — When the Olympic taekwondo competition starts today, officials will be hoping for a lot more kicking and a lot less controversy.
At the Beijing Olympics, the Korean martial art was plagued by scoring problems and nearly thrown out of the games altogether.
Athletes complained their kicks weren't registered by the corner judges. And the results of one women's heavyweight bout were overturned after officials reviewed video footage and admitted the judges were wrong.
Since then, the sport's governing body has overhauled its scoring system. It introduced electronic body protectors that automatically record kicks and punches when they are delivered with enough force, though head kicks are still scored manually. The London Games will be the first Olympics to use the new system.
Any more controversy would be bad news for taekwondo. After the games, taekwondo will be reviewed alongside other sports by the International Olympic Committee to decide if it should stay in the games.
"Taekwondo scoring is much more objective now," said Jean-Marie Ayer, secretary-general of the World Taekwondo Federation. "It would be very bad luck if we had a lot of protests in London."
Most athletes and coaches agree electronic scoring makes taekwondo more objective since kicks and punches are tracked by a computer system, not the human eye.
Also new is the use of video replays. Coaches now have the right to at least one appeal if they think their fighter has scored a head kick that wasn't counted. But they will have to use their video replay card judiciously; they lose their right to appeal if they are wrong, though all medal matches will give coaches a new video replay card if they have previously lost it.
Another new rule penalises athletes for inactivity — after 10 seconds, referees can give players warnings for not trying to fight. "That will make fights more interesting for spectators," Ayer said. The new rule means athletes won't be allowed to just back off if they are ahead and worried about losing their lead.
Jamaica's sole representative in taekwondo is Kenneth Edwards.