BAKU, Azerbaijan (June 4, 2023) - It has been less than 24 hours since Leon Sejranovic won bronze in the men’s -74kg at the Baku 2023 World Taekwondo Championships, but the young Australian is now able to reflect on what this significant achievement means for him and his country.
“It feels surreal. It’s finally starting to sink in,” Leon says about winning Australia’s first male World Taekwondo Championships medal in nearly 25 years. “I was going through highs and lows throughout the day. Trying to recompose myself to go into each fight. Now I can sit back and look at the day as a whole, with a fresh perspective I’m super happy.”
This fresh perspective includes a recognition that this medal has the potential to impact beyond just his career.
“It’s the first Australian medal in 10 years since Carmen Morton,” Leon says, noting Morton won the women’s gold medal in -62kg at the World Championships in 2013. “It’s definitely a privilege and an honour. It makes it more special feeling the love back home. Going on my phone afterwards and seeing all the love and support. I hope we can grow the sport in Australia and show young people from Australia that they can all achieve it if they put in the hard yards and devote themselves to their goals.
“I hope that the younger generation and even the generation coming up who are about to break into seniors can see this and think: ‘why not me?’ I definitely think there are a lot of young fighters in Australia who are capable of reaching this level if they be professional, do the right things and make the sacrifices needed.”
Professionalism and discipline come up a lot throughout the interview and its clear are principles Leon holds central to his recent success. Having got to the round of 16 in the World Championships in Guadalajara last year he worked hard on his conditioning to put him in a better position to succeed.
“I knew with the skills I have, all that really matters at these big competitions is decision-making and performing well under pressure. You don’t need to have a million tools. Just discipline during fights and decision-making is crucial. This whole year I’ve been taking my professionalism up to a new level and big props for that go to the coaching team I have with Ryan Carneli, Seokhun Lee and our staff as well as we did so much fitness work which I felt at the worlds in Mexico let me down a bit and meant I was making decisions when I was tired.”
It paid off as he beat Spain’s defending World Champion, Daniel Quesada Barrera in the round of 16, who he had lost to last year in Guadalajara. And he was confident he could go all the way.
“I truly believe I’m capable of beating anyone for two minutes,” he says. “If you take it one round at a time, if you’re on it there you feel there is no one you can’t beat. That’s not to say you’ll win every fight – everyone’s a killer out there.”
“But with the way the rules are now. Every round is a new round. It doesn’t matter if you lose 1-0 or 10-0. It’s awesome. It’s very spectator friendly. When you’re watching it gets you out of your seat. It’s really cool. And as a fighter it’s exciting. It potentially puts you in three end of fight scenarios in one fight. I love it.”
With a World Championship bronze under his belt, Leon will quickly need to move on as he focuses on competing at the Roma 2023 Grand Prix in the heavier -80kg category next week.
“I find it slightly challenging. But I’m getting used to it and finding my feet in the 80s. This will be my third Grand Prix. Between the last two I had a big improvement. I’m focusing on zoning in on the Olympics after the FISU World University Games.”
Finding his form in the 80s will be crucial to his success at Paris 2024, something he holds as his ultimate Taekwondo dream and would certainly inspire others in Australia just as he was inspired by Sydney 2000 silver medallist Daniel Trenton and his coach Ryan Carnelli who competed at Beijing 2008.
“My role models are definitely my coach Ryan. He got me into doing the Olympic style. I’ve always looked up to him. We have a great athlete coach dynamic. 100% trust what he says to me. Also Daniel Trenton, watching videos back seeing him win the medal was awesome. Watching his fights made me enjoy Taekwondo.”
From a three-year-old who started Taekwondo because his dad wanted to get him into martial arts to help him become more coordinated, Leon’s certainly come a long way and it looks like he’s got an exciting way to go.