Thailand, Tunisia and Canada Grab Golds on Day 1 in ‘Dragon City’



Taekwondo battle royale kicks off in Taiyuan, China


TAIYUAN, China (Oct. 10, 2023) – Athletes from Thailand, Tunisia and Canada emerged triumphant on the first day of the Taiyuan Grand Prix - the penultimate Grand Prix of the year.


The central Chinese city’s Shanxi Sports Center, is hosting 255 Taekwondoin from 50 nations, over three days. With Paris 2024 drawing ever-closer, action Taiyuan – known as “Dragon City” - was expected to be intense with valuable Olympic ranking points up for grabs.


That expectation proved correct.


Following an opening ceremony highlighted by performances from a local percussion-dance troupe, and the famous WT Demo Team, the finals in two of three weight classes sizzled.  



Women -49kg


The final pitted Thailand’s Youth Olympic and Tokyo Olympic Gold Medalist Panipak Wongpattankit against China’s 6th ranked Qing Guo.


The fight started with a side-on, tactical foot-jabbing game from both players before Wongpattanakit opened the scoring, going three points up, then Guo lost her video replay card with a failed IVR challenge. Round 1 to the Thai.


In the second, two punches put Guo briefly ahead, but the Thai landed a head kick, then a body kick, showing how fast this game can change. A thrusting side kick in the last seconds of Round 2 sealed the deal for Wongpattanakit, who looks unbeatable on present form.


Madinabonu Mannopova of Uzbekistan and Korea’s Mi-eu Kang had to settle for bronzes.



Men -58kg


Top seed Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi of Tunisia took on third-ranked Jun Jang of Korea in a clash of styles. Jendoubi is a long, leggy headhunter. Jang is an all-rounder: An accurate kicker with excellent defensive footwork.


Round 1 was a scrappy affair with both men trying varied techniques but clashing into clinches. Jang won after landing just one kick.


In the second, Jenboubi swiftly found the range, landing his arcing head kick to capture an early lead – which he maintained for the rest of the round. All would be decided in the third.


Again, Jenboudi’s head kick drew first blood. Jang returned fire, evened the scores and drew ahead - before it was levelled at six points each with 20 seconds left to play. Those seconds were fast and furious, and the referee working overtime to separate both men as they clashed. It ended with Jendoubi’s crescent kick grabbing gold. Jang, who had fought just days prior at the Hangzhou Asian Games, took well-deserved silver.


Bronze medals went to Tae-joon Park of Korea and Adrian Vicente Yunta of Spain.



Women -57kg


The gold medal matched pitted Iranian World Champion Nahid Kiyanichandeh against popular Canadian Skylar Park, a third-generation Taekwondoin.


Round 1 saw both athletes deploying clean, but powerful, long-range technique, and both hunting the head. The round was won by the Iranian.


Round 2, and Park aggressed with a body kick and a head kick going five up, but after an IVR, the Iranian drew ahead - until Park landed a game changer in the final second, taking the game to the third.


Round 3 was fierce action - powerful kicks, falls – but the Iranian was ahead when Park’s dad/coach requested an IVR. Granted - but the board was still 7-5 to the Iranian. Six seconds left. Park drove Kiyanichandeh off the mats. Score: 7-6. Less than one second remained.  Park attacked immediately – and landed to the body for a one-point win. Kiyanichandeh dropped to her knees in dismay: Gold medal finals don’t get more dramatic than this.


Korean Ah-reum Lee and AIN Tatiana Minina had to be satisfied with the bronzes.


Tomorrow will see the W-67kg, the M-68kg and the M-80kg categories contested.