BAKU, Azerbaijan (Jun 3, 2023) - The fifth day of the Baku 2023 World Taekwondo Championships saw a new star born and an established star add to her medal haul as Lena Stojkovic of Croatia retained her World Championship title in the women’s -46kg and Tae‐Joon Park won the men’s -54kg in style on his World Championships debut.
Stojkovic won gold at the World Championships in Guadalajara last year and followed up with another impressive performance here in Baku making her the first athlete to have retained her world title from 2022. The Croatian was pushed to the edge by Thailand’s Kamonchanok Seeken in the final but her experience and skill shone through to win her the title. Seeken was a deserved winner of the silver medal and bronze medals went to senior World Championships debutant Ruka Okamoto of Japan and China’s Xiaolu Wang.
18-year-old Park in his debut appearance at a senior World Championships sent out a statement of intent with exceptional performances throughout the tournament. The young Korean won the Manchester 2022 Grand Prix after securing a wild card entry by winning the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Challenge. He looks far from needing wild cards in the future, not dropping a round throughout these World Championships and entertaining with spectacular Taekwondo. The silver medal was won by Spain’s Hugo Arillo Vazquez and the bronze medals were shared by Uzbekistan’s Omonjon Otajonov and Türkiye’s Gorkem Polat.
In the women’s -46kg final, the 17-year-old Seeken picked up from where she left off in the semi-finals to take a 5-2 lead against Stojkovic within 15 seconds. A chop kick to the head extended Seeken’s lead. The Thai was relentless in her attack and threw a barrage of kicks at Stojkovic to win the round 14-4. In the second round it looked like Seeken had too much for Stojkovic as she took an early 4-0 lead. In the pursuit of attack Seeken over reached to leave herself open for Stojkovic to land kicks to the body to take the lead for the first time. A punch from Seeken drew the scores to 5-5 but she followed up with two head kicks back-to-back. In the last 10 seconds Stojkovic landed a crescent kick to win the round by one point, 11-12. In the final round both athletes showed great balance and poise. Seeken again took an early lead 2-1. A front leg counter from Stojkovic followed by another body shot gave her a 5-2 lead. Stojkovic moved around well mixing up the distance and keeping Seeken at bay and ultimately proved too strong winning 6-4 to take gold.
Stojkovic met Okamoto in the first semi-final. It looked like Okamoto was going to claim the first round but with two seconds left a video replay revealed Stojkovic had successfully landed a head kick taking her from one point down to two points up to win 6-4. In the second round Stojkovic took control, scoring freely to win the round 9-0. In the second semi-final between Seeken and Wang, Seeken showed great precision throughout the first round, consistently landing clean head shots to win 14-3. Seeken carried on from where she left off in the second round moving through the gears to take a 10-0 lead. Wang pulled five points back but a final head kick gave Seeken a 13-5 win.
In the men’s final it was Korea’s Park versus Spain’s Arillo Vazquez. The impressive teenager Park took an early 2-0 lead which he followed up with a front leg double. A head kick extended his lead and a push kick ended the round 8-0 to Park. In the second round Arillo Vazquez was unlucky not to score on the inside but Park punished him with a body shot of his own to go 2-0 up. A punch from Park threatened to take the score away from Arillo Vazquez once again but the Spaniard landed a shot to the body to bring the score within one. Great timing up close from Park on a kick to the body and a punch extended his lead, 6-2. Arillo Vazquez tried to land a spinning kick to bring him back into the fight but Park evaded him and won the round 6-3 to win gold.
Park had met Otajonov in the first semi-final. Otajonov won the first round aft it finished 5-5 and so it came down to registrations which favoured Otajonov. Park brought higher intensity in the second round and was more successful in landing his shots resulting in an 8-2 victory. The final round brought the style from both fighters but it was Park who showed the greater imagination and creativity with a reverse turning kick to the head the standout shot of the match. Park won the round 18-8. In the second semi-final, Arillo Vazquez knew it would be a tough challenge facing Polat but delivered an almost perfect first round winning 15-1. In the second round, Polat looked to have pulled himself back into it as he looked to protect a 6-3 lead but three body kicks from Arillo Vazquez in quick succession reversed the tie and gave the Spaniard a 9-7 win.
The World Championships continues tomorrow with the M-74kg and W-62kg.