Nancy Gillen ©ITG

I had been expecting drama and entertainment from the World Taekwondo Championships, mainly due to the fast-paced nature of the sport.

A typical taekwondo bout lasts six minutes, split into three rounds of two minutes each. It only takes one landed shot, which can be worth up to five points, to completely change the outcome of a fight. 

I was not expecting the level of drama that I witnessed on the second day of action in Manchester Arena, however.

For those unaware of what took place, two-time world champion Bianca Walkden of Britain was battling Olympic champion Zheng Shuyin of China in the gold medal bout of the women’s over-73kg category.

Despite having a home advantage, Walkden was losing quite badly. With one minute to go, Zheng had a 10-point lead and was on track to take the world title off the Briton.

She did have seven gam-jeons however, taekwondo’s equivalent of a penalty. Ten gam-jeons and an athlete is disqualified from a bout. Aware that this was her best chance of victory, Walkden adopted legitimate tactics to force Zheng into committing three more gam-jeons. This mainly consisted of pushing her Chinese opponent out of the ring.

It was obvious what was happening and boos in Manchester Arena started to ring out. With 50 seconds left, Walkden pushed Zheng out of the ring one last time and the referee disqualified the Olympic champion.

Walkden fell to the ground in joy, having secured her third consecutive world title. Zheng, in the meantime, was distraught, refusing to shake Walkden’s hand or acknowledge her victory.

China's Zheng Shuyin collapsed to the floor in tears during the women's over-73kg medal ceremony ©Getty Images
China's Zheng Shuyin collapsed to the floor in tears during the women's over-73kg medal ceremony ©Getty Images

The drama continued. Walkden was loudly booed as she received her gold medal on the podium. Then, as the British anthem rang out, Zheng collapsed in tears. There are striking photos from the incident, which show Walkden displaying her medal to a huddle of photographers while Zheng is comforted in the background.

Afterwards, Walkden was unrepentant.

"I went out there needing to find a different way to win and a win is a win if you disqualify someone – it's not my fault," she said, as reported by The Telegraph.

"People can have their opinions but I'm standing here as world champion.

"I wouldn't change it for the world – I would do exactly the same thing again."

This statement shows the win at all costs attitude that Walkden had going into the gold medal bout. What sums it up even more concisely is the celebratory tweet, sensibly posted two days after her victory, that featured the hashtag “die trying”.

You only need to read several of the replies to this post to gauge the level of anger directed towards Walkden. I do understand it. Her actions laughed in the face of sportsmanship and undeniably took the world title away from the athlete that deserved it more at the time.

Britain's Bianca Walkden was unrepentant for the tactics she used during the women's over-73kg gold-medal bout ©Getty Images
Britain's Bianca Walkden was unrepentant for the tactics she used during the women's over-73kg gold-medal bout ©Getty Images

I think it would be impossible to find an elite athlete that would not have done the same thing, however. A cut-throat, win at all costs attitude is essential to becoming the best in any sport.  

Walkden had a third world title on the line and was competing on home ground. I don’t blame her for trying whatever was legitimately within her power to make sure she stayed world champion. I understand why the international athletes in the crowd were booing her, but how many of them would have done the exact same thing? 

My colleague Liam Morgan has the same argument in one of his recent blogs, which can be found here. As he says, “success trumps sportsmanship”.

People have suggested that Walkden should have been penalised for her tactics, or that the referee should have somehow stopped her from doing what she did. That is a different debate, however, regarding the rules and refereeing of taekwondo. During the bout in question, Walkden played by the rules. 

It wasn't entertaining to watch but, say what you like, Walkden is now the one with the gold medal. Her method of “die trying” worked. And as commentator John Cullen said on BBC Sport’s coverage of the bout, “When they go to the record books, it won't say by gam-jeon. It will say Bianca Walkden, world champion.”