ROME, Italy (Jun 11, 2023) – The final day of action at the Roma 2023 World Taekwondo Grand Prix saw Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit and Saleh Elsharabaty of Jordan claim the final golds on offer at the Foro Italico.
In the women’s -49kg, Wongpattanakit topped the podium to earn her 10th Grand Prix gold. Silver went to Spain’s Adriana Cerezo Iglesias who was just one step away from defending her Roma 2022 title, while the bronze medals were shared by Iran and China.
In the men’s -80kg, Elsharabaty showed great class to take his second Grand Prix gold. Iran’s Mehran Barkhordari took the silver, while the bronze medals went to Korea and Norway.
In addition, a special ceremony was held before the semi-finals to honour Italy's Vito Dell'Aquila, who was recognised as the Best Olympic Male Athlete in World Taekwondo's Best of 2021 awards. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented an awarding ceremony in 2021, the Foro Italico provided an ideal setting to celebrate the outstanding Italian athlete who won gold at his Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The women’s -49kg final saw a matchup between two-time World Champion Wongpattanakit and the Rome Grand Prix defending champion Cerezo Iglesias, a repeat of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 final.
After remaining scoreless for most of the first round, it was Wongpattanakit who landed a sensational head kick to put the first points on the board, before the Spaniard conceded a Gam-jeom in the final seconds to give the Thai athlete a 4-0 win. Round two was another close affair, but it was Wongpattanakit who opened the scoring with a kick to the body. A Gam-jeom for holding by Cerezo Iglesias extended Wongpattanakit’s lead to 3-0. The Spaniard fought back with a kick to the body, but the Thai utilised all her experience to hold out and take the round 3-2 and the Roma 2023 gold medal.
In the first semi-final, Wongpattanakit faced 17-year-old Mobina Nematzadeh of Iran. Wongpattanakit’s experience proved too much for the young Iranian, and she took the first round with a 3-1 performance. The second round also went to Wongpattanakit with a score of 8-1, booking her place in familiar territory, a Grand Prix final.
The second semi-final saw Cerezo Iglesias face Qing Guo of China. The opening round went to Cerezo Iglesias who came out firing to take a commanding 8-1 win. In round two, Cerezo Iglesias was again in complete control and prevailed 6-2 to book her place in the final.
Elsharabaty of Jordan took on Barkhordari in the men’s -80kg final to close out the Roma 2023 Grand Prix.
The Iranian struck the first blow with a head kick to edge ahead at 3-0, but a kick to the body from Elsharabaty closed the gap to 3-2. Barkhordari responded with a body kick of his own and the Jordanian gave away a Gam-jeom for stepping out of the ring to give the Iranian athlete a 6-2 lead. In the closing stages of the round, a video review confirmed that a head kick from Elsharabaty landed to take the score to 6-5. Showing great poise, Barkhordari landed a punch and did enough to land the first round 7-5. Unwilling to let the final slip away, Elsharabaty came out firing in round two, landing a head kick, while a Gam-jeom by the Iranian added to his lead for a 4-0 start. Three Gam-jeoms conceded by the Jordanian then brought the match to within one point with a few seconds left. Despite landing a punch to level the score, Barkhordari lost the round based on hit registrations, and the final went into a deciding round.
The final round was equally intense, with the Jordanian landing a kick to the body which was later wiped off the board and a Gam-jeom gave the Iranian the lead. Elsharabaty landed a kick to the head to edge ahead, but trading Gam-jeoms saw the score board move to 4-2. Barkhordari landed a powerful body kick to level the scores 4-4. However, the experienced Jordanian pulled out all the stops to land a body kick that proved decisive and, despite conceding a Gam-jeom, he held on at 6-5 to pocket his second Grand Prix gold.
In the first semi-final, Elsharabaty went up against Korea’s Geon-woo Seo, who knocked out reigning World Champion and Italian legend Simone Alessio in the quarterfinals, much to the disappointment of the home fans. It was an intense first round with both athletes trading blows, but it was the Jordanian who came out on top to claim the win 16-3. The Korean came back swinging in round two, fighting back to draw level and force a decider with a 11-9 performance. After an action-packed deciding round, Elsharabaty came out on top 16-6 to earn his place in the gold medal match.
The highly experienced Richard Andre Ordemann of Norway and Barkhordari went head-to-head in the second semi-final. It was a fierce contest, but Barkhordari showed his class to win the first round 12-4. The Iranian got the scoreboard ticking quickly in the second round and, despite Ordemann’s best efforts, Barkhordari took the round 10-3 and progressed to the final.
With the Roma 2023 Grand Prix wrapped up, athletes can now look ahead to returning to the French capital for the Paris 2023 World Taekwondo Grand Prix from 31 August to 2 September.