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A Son’s Ardent Wish for a Medal

Posted December. 09, 2006 09:53,   


There was commotion marked by crying, screaming, and throwing of a helmet on December 8 in the Qatar Sports Club where the first Taekwondo matches of the Doha 2006 Asian Games were held.

The origin of this commotion was Hani Helail Al-Matrafi (21) of Saudi Arabia. He was defeated by Lee Yong-yeol (21, Yongin University) of Korea in the lightweight quarterfinals by a score of 4 – 2.

However, the loser of the match would not accept the results. Two seconds before round three ended, he thought he had achieved a tie with a two-point chagi (kick) to the face, but the referees did not acknowledge this. The officials of the Saudi Arabian Taekwondo team had to intervene and take him out of the stadium.

There is a reason for this “commotion.” Hani Helail is on the Taekwondo team with his older brother Ghali Helail (23) and younger brother Emad (19). Of the six athletes on the Saudi Arabian Taekwondo team, half are Al Matrafi brothers.

They came close to not even being able to participate in this year’s games. Their father, aged 85, was in critical condition after stomach surgery. They visited their father in Mecca just before the competition and promised him a medal. Hani Helail, who was defeated on December 8, was thought to have the best chance at a medal. His disappointment was amplified by his higher expectations.

Coach Jin Dong-hwan of Dankuk University, who has been coaching the Saudi Arabian team by temporary invitation since last month, said, “I think he became too agitated for a moment because he had failed to keep his promise with his father. I’m sorry he wasn’t able to achieve as much as I know he is able to.”

Still, there are two more chances. Emad will compete in the flyweight competition on December 9 and Ghali Helail in the featherweight class on December 10. Their father had two wives and 18 children.