MUJU, Korea (June 26, 2017) - The gold medals on the second day of the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships went to Serbia and Russia as the Female -49kg and the Male -74kg weight categories were contested
Silvers in the two divisions were won by Thailand and Uzbekistan, while bronzes were won by China, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Iran.
In the first semi-final, China’s Yuntao Wenren went up against defending World Champion and Rio bronze medalist Panipak Wongpattanakit of Thailand. Both players looked physically well matched – tall and leggy - and the fight started at a measured pace. First blood went to Wenren with a punch, 1-0, then the Thai landed a head kick, but fell. The round ended 3-2 to Wongpattanakit. Action restarted and another head kick gave the Thai an extended lead, 6-2. The round ended on that score. In the third, Wenren went into the attack. The Thai player hung back, letting her opponent do the work, but as the Chinese charged in under Wongpattanakit’s hooking head kick for a punch, she misjudged and the kick connected around her guard. The Thai fighter was now 9-2 up, then 10-2 as the Chinese fell. But it was not quite over. Wenren landed a head kick of her own, taking her score to six. In the last few seconds, the Thai suffered another point deduction when she was backed off the mats, but ended with a comfortable 7-10 win.
In the second semi-final, Vanja Stankovic of Serbia took on Kristina Tomic of Croatia. The fight started at a torrid pace. The Serbian appeared to land an arcing kick but it was disallowed for holding; a coach appeal failed, leaving the Croatian with a one-point penalty lead. Things heated up with a textbook roundhouse by the Serbian to the head; the thwack of it was audible across the stadium. The Croat came back with a punch then another gamjeom, for 3-3. In Round 2, Stankovic showcased some awesome speed and flexibility with her high kick attack, but again, her reckless tactics cost her penalties and Tomic went 4-3 up before the Serbian landed a round kick, to go 5-4 up. In the final seconds another head kick gave her a 8-4 lead. In the third, Tomic came out much harder and faster, but Stankovic put her on the defensive and landed another head kick, 11-4. Penalties continued to fly, and in the last 30 seconds the score was 12-6. It ended on that note with a deserved victory for Stankovic.
The final was an east-west clash, pitting Wongpattanakit against Stankovic.
The defending champ had the height advantage, but the Serbian looked more aggressive. First blood went to Stankovic in convincing style: She landed one of her textbook round kicks to Wongpattanakit’s head for three points, then was forced off the mats by the Thai’s counter-charge for a one-point penalty. The first ended 3-1 to Stankovic. In Round 2, the Thai was stabbing forward with her long front leg, but not connecting. However, she was dominating the center of the mats, and forced her opponent out of the area for another point, 2-3. The rounded ended on that score.
In the third, the reigning champion had to score, but as she attacked forward, she went down, leaving the board at 4-2, in Stankovic’s favor. As the Serb lunged in for a punch attack, the Thai landed her hook kick to the head but fell; her points were deducted for holding. The Thai coach appealed. Disallowed. The board now read 5-2 to the Serb. The Thai won back two points with a body kick, but the Serb landed yet another perfect roundhouse to the head that dropped Wongpattanakit. The score was 9-4, the 9-5. Thirty seconds remained. The Thai sought to score to the head, but her efforts backfired as she tumbled. The score was 10-5 – and that was it. Serbian Coach Dragan Jovic hoisted his newly minted world champion – Serbia’s first ever – onto his shoulders in delight.
Wongpattanakit earned silver, while Tomic and Wenren took the bronzes.
The first semi-final should have pitted Masoud “The Warrior” Hajizavareh of Iran against Maksim Khramtcov of Russia, but the veteran Iranian had been injured the previous day, and did not appear on the floor, granting Khramtcov a by.
The second semi-final encounter featured Nikita Rafalovich of Uzbekistan, the 2015 silver medalist, fighting Kairat Sarymsakov of Kazakhstan. Round 1 started with both lads feeling each other out from range, using front-leg probing kicks. The first point on the board was a penalty against Sarymsakov, giving the round to Rafalovich, 1-0. In the second, the Uzbek extended his lead with a round kick to the body – then, in a flurry of action, the scores rose, 5-3 to the Kazak. After some edge-of-the-mats action, the second ended with Rafalovich ahead, 6-5. In the third, the points rose to 8-6, then the two engaged in some torrid clinchwork that ended with the board at 7-8. More close-in pushing took the board to 8-8. There were 11 seconds left - showdown: Both kicked at the same time – no score – then the Uzbek went on the attack – but without result. So it went to golden point. It was the Kazak who launched a barrage of attacks, but the Uzbek scored to the body, taking him to the finals.
The championship title match saw the fresh Khramtcov do battle with Rafalovich - who had endured an exhausting match against Sarymsakov. From the opening buzzer, Khramtcov surged forward with high attacks, to vocal support from a noisy Russian crowd. But Rafalovich danced out of trouble and the first ended scoreless. In Round 2, the first point of the match was a penalty against the Russian. Both fighters were sparring from range but not entering danger-close, and the referee demanded action. Finally, the Russian connected with a body shot, 2-1. The round ended on that score.
In the third, the Russian continued attacking forward with a machine-gun high round kick; the Uzbek used his feet to stay out of trouble and conserve energy. But his economical tactics paid off as he landed a round kick to the body, going 3-2 up. The Russian returned fire with a body kick of his own, 4-3. With 34 seconds left and a world title on the line, the referee again called on the two to fight. The Russian responded, and landed another shot, going 6-3 up. In the final seconds Rafalovich finally exploded into all-out attack, but the Khramtcov held off the charge to captured the title – then dashed across the arena streaming a Russian tricolor: It was a first World Championship title for a Russian male.
Rafalovich won silver, while Sayrmsakov and Hajizavareh – wearing a neck brace – went home with bronzes.
The medals were presented by IOC Member Tony Estanguet, President of the Paris 2024 Committee and World Taekwondo Council Member Driss El-Hilali.
Day 4 Preview
Action recommences tomorrow at Taewkondowon with the preliminaries of the Female -53kg, the Female +73kg and the Male -58kg, and the finals of the Female -67kg and the Male -68kg.
The 2017 World Taekwondo Championships are the 23rd edition of the tournament, which runs every two years. With 183+1 nations participating, the 2017 championships are the largest ever, and are taking place at the world’s largest taekwondo-dedicated training facility in Muju, in Korea’s southwest.
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