Eight seconds. Count them out. That was the margin between a golden moment and something else for Bradly Sinden, a guy with no great care for silver linings. Eight seconds. Brutal old pyjama party, taekwondo.
For those with lower expectations and lesser talents, silver is great. Silver is a life’s work wrapped up in a day. Silver is Britain’s best of these Olympics to date. Silver would have done for Jade Jones, a double champion who left with nothing earlier in the afternoon after the favourite for gold was knocked out in the first round.
But in his eyes? The bloodshot eyes of a 22-year-old who saw gold in the flicker of time before Ulugbek Rashitov of Uzbekistan turned on one heel and rammed the other into his gut for four points? Not so much.
Taekwondo star Bradly Sinden won’t take any positives from his defeat to Ulugbek Rashitov
‘My coach always says silver is best loser,’ he said, and there was nothing in his expression that indicated a counter-argument would be forthcoming. By Sinden’s view, it was his. And it was, in so much as you ever have a grab on anything in a sport that plays out in a thrilling blur of madness.
At this point, a brief run through the first five minutes and 52 seconds of this fight for the -68kg gold medal.
He led 6-2 and then he trailed 11-17, picked off by the precision of the quick teenager from the blue corner. Going into the third of three two-minute sessions, he was behind by 14-18, but by the home stretch he had swung it around to 28-26.
That’s when the clock read eight seconds. A long yawn to us, an eternity to them. Remember Lutalo Muhammad? He had only one second to kill to win gold for himself and Team GB at Rio 2016, and they weren’t happy tears he gave to the BBC, so eight is dangerous.
Sinden says he ‘gave away’ the gold medal as he fell to defeat against Rashitov in Tokyo
As indeed are spinning kicks to the stomach. They’re worth four points in taekwondo money, and that’s what Sinden paid up in the moment it all turned, when he thought Rashitov was off balance.
He charged in to finish him, but ended up surging straight on to the shot. A few penalties on from there and it was all over, 34-29, but it was the kick that did it.
Sinden is called the ‘robot’ by Jones because ‘he literally has no emotion’, but he cried for a second or two on the mat here when the buzzer sounded.
In time he will likely take a prouder view of what he pulled off, but not immediately. Possibly not for a while.
‘It was a gold medal I gave away,’ he said. ‘He’s a good fighter but I made a few mistakes. Twice I had him and made a mistake and let him come back. Maybe, eventually, there will be pride. But you are here to win gold.
‘My coach says silver is for the best loser, and maybe I will get over it.
‘But for now it gets me that I didn’t win gold when it was there for me to take. I will go away and come back stronger. You will see me again in Paris.’
A harsh self-assessment, to us, but those around the British taekwondo set-up go with high standards. Pound for pound they are quite possibly the most efficient wing of Team GB, and within that, Sinden’s run to these Games and that final was no fluke.
He is the reigning world champion for his weight, the second seed in this tournament, and by his own pre-Olympics claim ‘gold is the only colour’.
That he had to settle for silver should be no source of shame for a fighter from an occasionally tricky part of Doncaster who has been trading kicks since the age of four. He stormed the first two rounds of the competition, picking up 92 points, and then edged a thriller at the death in his semi-final. By that stage the single mother who spent thousands in support of her son’s dream was being filmed at home by the BBC — it was turning into one of those stories.
It wasn’t to be, of course, but with time he might also see it for the success it was. That’s because there is only one rung higher and plenty lower, for which Jones can testify, having gone out in her opening bout against Kimia Alizadeh of the Refugee Team in the round of 16.
Jade Jones was left dejected following her defeat to Kimia Alizadeh of the Refugee Team
This was meant to be her Games, where her heart was set on a third gold from three successive Olympics — the first British woman to do so. But it went so horribly wrong, starting with her pairing against a bronze medallist who was only unseeded because of inactivity in the wake of her defection from Iran last year.
Jones briefly led 6-2 but was too reluctant to engage and it cost her. By the time the music stopped she was 16-12 down and out. She had told Sportsmail earlier in the summer that anything less than a gold would be a ‘fail’, and by the end lamented with admirable honesty that she had struggled with her own expectations.
‘Absolutely gutted,’ she said. ‘I felt like I put too much pressure on myself going into it and I really did feel it more than I expected on the day.
‘Not having my family there to push me out of that fear zone really did affect me. I’m just gutted.’ That made two of them, counting Sinden. After all the good kicks he landed in Tokyo, he shouldn’t waste any on himself.