Papua New Guinea’s Maximillian Kassman has described his win at the Oceania Taekwondo Championships as the “hand of God”.
He was behind 3-2 with just three seconds to go when a well-executed kick to his opponent’s head from him stopped the clock.
The points for the kick did not register on the electronic scoreboard upon impact and Kassman’s coach, Andy Rutten wasted no time appealing.
Kassman’s opponent, Bruce Jonathan from Vanuatu was hanging desperately on to the lead but his hopes of winning the match and qualifying for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August were shattered when the referees’ decision came back in favour of the PNG fighter.
The kick earned Kassman three points and pushed him in front, 5-3 just as the end of the match was signaled.
The Championships which was held at the Taurama Aquatic Centre in Port Moresby on February 27 was also the qualifying event for the Rio Olympics.
Kassman and Jonathan’s 68kg fight was an exciting encounter with a very vocal crowd behind them.
Both men gave their best for three rounds and despite running out of gas, kept pushing on.
Jonathan’s experience gave him the advantage but the 17 year old Kassman’s youthful speed and agility harnessed from months of training and hard work paid off.
Kassman said it was a miraculous moment where everything happened so fast.
“As the clock was ticking I turned around and saw that it was only three seconds left, so with all my might I did this high kick to his forehead.
“Because the kick was not electronically detected, the referees reviewed it and gave me the fight and I am happy to qualify for Rio,” he said.
Kassman’s miracle win will see him represent PNG at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
He will be joined by his aunt and team mate, Samantha Kassman who will be competing in the women’s over 68kg division.
Samantha automatically qualified when her four opponents did not turn up for the competition in Port Moresby.
It was a proud moment for Taekwondo PNG who will be sending two athletes to the Olympics for the first time.
In the previous two Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012, PNG had only qualified female fighter, Theresa Tona.
National coach, Edward Kassman said the results were pleasing and although he would have loved all four of his fighters to go through, getting two was still good.
Taekwondo PNG President, Peter Miria said it was a proud moment for them to qualify on home soil because in the past athletes had to attend tournaments overseas to qualify.
It will be the first time for the Kassmans to attend the Olympics and both said they were looking forward to their training and preparation to represent PNG on the world stage.
The other two PNG fighters, Rose Tona in the women’s 48kg and Jonathan Paskalis in the men’s over 80kg category missed out on the gold medals.
The event was attended by six countries including Australia and New Zealand and a refugee athlete who competed under the Olympic banner.
Out of the eight places given to the Oceania region, Australia won four places, PNG two while New Zealand and Tonga secured one each.