MEXICO CITY, Mexico (December 6, 2015) – The second and final tranche of taekwondo fighters to secure quota places this year for the 2016 Rio Olympics won their NOCs slots on the second and last day of the 2015 World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final today.
On the second day of the two-day tournament, gold medals were won by fighters from Egypt, Iran, China and Korea. Winning athletes in each category also took home US$6000 in prize money and a local gift: A Mexican sombrero.
Four Olympic weight categories, two male and two female, were contested in the Sala de Armas – the Olympic fencing venue in the Magdalena Mixihuca Sports Complex. The top-six ranked fighters in each of the eight-person weight categories earned berths to the Olympics after battling not just each other, but also the city’s energy-sapping altitude.
On the previous day, 24 athletes in four Olympic weight categories had graduated to Rio.
The end result of the Grand Prix Final was 26 countries winning 48 Olympic taekwondo places.
Korea led the pack with five berths, followed by France with four. Great Britain, Iran, Mexico and Russia each earned three places. Belgium, China, Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Turkey each won two slots. Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Japan, Moldova, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, Thailand, the United States and Uzbekistan each won one place.
Further taekwondo Olympic berths are available through next year’s Continental Qualification tourneys.
In the final match of the female -57kg category, Egypt’s Hedaya Malak took on Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez. Malak displayed an elastic front leg, and both girls played a long-range, front-leg game, but despite a high work rate, the round ended scoreless.
In the second, Malak raised her kick rate and moved forward aggressively; Calvo Gomez attempted to counter off the Egyptian’s attacks. Yet neither girl found the range.
In the third, both girls tried spin back kicks; neither connected. With the score 0-0, the match went to golden point. In the last 11 seconds, Malak raised her leg and dropped a precise-looking ax kick to Calvo Gomez’s face. It did not register. The Egyptian coach appealed. After a tense few seconds, the appeal was granted, giving Malak gold and Calvo Gomez silver.
For the bronze, Great Britain’s Jade Jones beat Sweden’s Nikita Glasinovic on superiority in golden point.
In the category, Great Britain’s Jade Jones, Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez, Egypt’s Hedaya Malak, Japan’s Mayu Hamada, Chinese Taipei’s Yun-wen Huang and Croatia’s Ana Zaninovic earned their NOCs Rio Olympic Games slots.
The finals of the male +80kg category pitted France’s M’Bar N’Diaye against Iran’s Sajjad Mardani. Both men started off playing side-on, defensive games, trying to fake each other into making a mistake. The cagey strategies left the scoreboard empty at the end of the first.
In the second, Mardani, tried a pair of powerful rear-leg turning kicks and scored to the body. In return, the Frenchman got flamboyant, trying to land arcing ax kicks and a reverse turning kick, but the round ended 1-0 to the Iranian.
Seconds into the third, with both men spinning in a close-range exchange, N’Diaye clouted Mardani in the head with his elbow. The Iranian collapsed to the mats, and was removed for medical attention. N’Diaye was disqualified – leaving him with silver and Mardani with gold.
In the bronze medal shootout, Uzbekistan’s Jasur Baykuziyev beat Gabon’s Anthony Obame, 4-3 in a torrid match.
In the category, Uzbekistan’s Dmitriy Shokin, Azerbaijan’s Radik Isaev, Iran’s Sajjad Mardani, Gabon’s Anthony Obame, France’s M’Bar N’Diaye and Korea’s Dong-min Cha all earned their NOCs slots for Rio 2016.
In the final of the female +67kg, Mexico’s Maria Espinoza – a huge favorite with the highly vocal local crowd – did battle with China’s Shuyin Zheng. Espinoza was giving away almost a head in height difference to Zheng, but looked unintimidated, dancing around the Chinese girl, trying to distract her with hand fakes. Zheng tried to keep Espinoza at distance with flicking kicks and Round 1 ended 0-0.
After a series of Mexican waves, the second got underway with Zheng firing head shots, but failing to connect. Things heated up as Espinoza closed the range and landed her trademark punch, bringing the crowd to their feet. The round ended 1-0 to Espinoza.
In the third, the Mexican tried to get inside Zheng’s long legs to clinch, while firing a few conservative kicks of her own. As the last 30 seconds counted down, the audience went ballistic – then Zheng appeared to connect with a spinning back kick to the face. She jumped with delight, but it went to the video review jury. The points were granted, putting Zheng in the lead. As the final seconds counted down, a desperate Espinoza uncorked a series of reverse turning kicks, but to no avail; the match ended 4-1 to the Chinese girl.
For the bronze, the Netherlands’ Reshmie Oogink beat the USA’s Jackie Galloway 4-1, despite a last-second appeal by Galloway’s coach for a head kick.
Athletes who put their NOCs through to Rio in the category are China’s Shuyin Zheng, Serbia’s Milica Mandic, Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden, USA’s Jackie Galloway, France’s Gwladys Epangue and Mexico’s Maria Espinoza.
In the final of the male -68kg, Mexico’s Saul Gutierrez faced off for gold against Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee. In this match, it was the Mexican fighter who was the taller, but it was Lee who put the pressure on, attacking forward with a stabbing side kick, varied with turning and oblique kicks. Lee went one up, then two, then three with separate body kicks. Round 1 ended 3-0 to Lee; Gutierrez looked frustrated.
In the second, he started using his height to his advantage, connecting with a head kick for three points, evening the score and delighting the crowd. With both fighters raising their work rate, the board went to 4-4. A head kick appeal won Gutierrez a further three points, ending the second round 7-5 to the local lad.
Round three started with Lee looking dangerous as he tried to force the Mexican off the mats. Gutierrez was dropped to the deck and Lee closed the gap to a one-point difference – then scored again, evening the board to 7-7 at the end of the third. Lee looked fresher as the two fighters came out for the golden point. Lee was the first to connect with a body kick, earning golden point and gold medal.
Russia’s Alexey Denisenko and Belgium’s Jaouad Achab engaged in a closely fought battle for the bronze. With the score ending 2-2, it went to golden point. Achab struck first with a jump turning kick to the body, taking the medal.
Athletes who earned their NOCs Rio slots in the category were Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee,
Russia’s Alexey Denisenko, Belgium’s Jaouad Achab, Mexico’s Saul Gutierrez, Turkey’s Servet Tazegul and Spain’s Joel Gonzalez Bonilla.
View Qualified NOCs for 2016 Rio Olympic: Qualified for Rio 2016