Jang Ji-won of South Korea grabs gold

ATHENS, Greece -- Nia Abdallah's lack of international
experience turned out to be her biggest asset in the Olympic
taekwondo tournament.

"I don't think anybody expected me to do anything here," she

Abdallah won a silver medal in taekwondo Friday, advancing all
the way to the final before losing 2-1 to Jang Ji-won of South
Korea in the 126-pound (57 kg) class. Iridia Salazar Blanco of
Mexico won the bronze.

Later, Hadi Saei Bonehkohal of Iran won the gold medal in the
men's 150-pound (68 kg) division, beating Chih Hsiung Huang of
Taiwan 4-3. Song Myeong-seob of South Korea got the bronze.

Abdallah, a little-known competitor from Houston, was the first
American woman to win an Olympic match in taekwondo, added as an
official sport in Sydney in 2000.

"Just me winning my first fight was putting myself in the
record books," she said. "I'm happy for what I got."

She beat Margarita Mkrtchyan of Russia in the first round,
Cristiana Corsi of Italy in the second and Nootcharin
Sukkhongdumnoen of Thailand in the semifinals. Only Mkrtchyan had
faced Abdallah before.

"I was a newcomer," said Abdallah, who felt that was an

In the final, the 20-year-old Abdallah fell behind early and
didn't score until the third and last round. Still, she was
thrilled with her performance.

"This is an amazing time in my life," she said. "I got a
silver medal. Everyone is asking for my picture and everything. I'm
just glad to be here."