Africa Fumbles At 2019 World Taekwondo Championships
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By Amaechi Agbo
As the curtains came down on the just concluded World Taekwondo Championships, which was held in Manchester UK between 14 and 19 May, Africa found itself left out of the podium experience, as no athlete from the continent win a medal in the world event dominated by Asia and Europe.
Korea were overall winners with four gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals, followed by host Great Britain with three gold medals and one bronze. Republic of China came in third position with two gold, two silver and three bronze while Thailand came was in fourth position with two gold medals and one bronze medal.
The last time that the African continent failed to win a single medal was 24 years ago at the 12th edition of the World Taekwondo Championships, which was held in Chicago USA in 1995.
In fact, in the 25 editions of the World Taekwondo Championships held, the only other time that Africa did not reflect on the medal table was at the premier edition in Seoul South Korea in 1973.
At the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 23rd edition held in Muju South Korea, there were two male and one female African medallists.
For the male category, Niger Republic’s Issoufou Abdulrazak won the Gold medal in the male +87kg heavyweight division while Gabon’s Anthony Obame came away with the bronze in the same weight category. In the female divisions, Cote D’Ivoire’s Ruth Gbagi picked up the gold in the female -62kg light weight division.
At the 22nd edition held in Chelyabinsk Russia 2015, there were three male African medallists.
Cote D’Ivoire’s Firmin Zokou picked up a Silver in the male +87kg heavyweight category while Anthony Obame picked up the bronze in the same category. Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly picked up a bronze in the male -74kg lightweight category.
In the 21st edition held 2013 in Puebla, Mexico, there were four male African medallists and one female African medallist.
In the male categories, Gabon’s Anthony Obame won the gold in the Male +87kg heavyweight division; Egypt’s Hussein Sherif picked up a bronze medal in the male -54kg fin weight division; Senegal’s Balla Dieye won a bronze in the male -68kg featherweight division; and Tunisia’s Saifeddine Trabelsi won a bronze in the male -74kg lightweight division.
In the female categories, Tunisia’s Fadia Farhani picked up a bronze in the female -46kg fin weight division.
The 20th edition was held in 2011in Gyeonju South Korea, there were two male African medallists and two female African medallists.
In the male categories, Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly picked up a bronze in the male -74kg lightweight category while Morocco’s Issam Chernoubi picked up a bronze in the male -80kg welterweight category.
In the female categories, Morocco’s Lamyaa Bekkali won the silver in the female -53kg category, while her compatriot, Sanaa Atabrour, picked up a bronze in the female -49kg category.
At the 2009 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 19th edition and held in Copenhagen Denmark, there were two male African medallists.
In the male categories, Mali’s Daba Modibo Keïta picked up the gold in the male +87kg heavyweight division while Senegal’s Balla Dieye won a bronze in the male -68kg featherweight division.
2007 was the 18th edition and it was held in Beijing China, there were three male African medallists.
Egypt’s Tamer Bayoumi picked up a bronze in the male -58kg fly weight division; while Mali’s Daba Modibo Keïta picked up the gold in the male +87kg heavyweight division while Morocco’s Abdelkader Zrouri picked up the bronze medal in the same division.
Detailed Results of African Players at the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships
The 2019 edition of the world championships was unkind to Africa whose top taekwondo stars and upcoming talents athletes failed to deliver medals for the continent during the event.
In the male -80kg category, one of Africa’s top picks for medalling at the World championships, Sallah Cisse of Cote D’Ivoire who is the defending Olympic Champion and African Champion, lost in the round of 32 after illegally punching his opponent, Chinese Taipei’s Wei Ting Liu, in the throat.
His opponent’s inability to continue left the centre referee with no option but to disqualify Africa’s surest medal, despite his 12 – 7 lead at the time. The charismatic Olympian had earlier defeated Brazil’s Joao Pedros 12 – 7 in the Round of 32. Other Africans in the category did not fare any better.
Burundi’s Faysal Sawadogo lost 10 – 13 to Brazil’s Joao Pedros in the round of 64. Niger Republic’s Hama Alzaima lost to USA’s Jaysen Ishida 10 – 22 in the round of 64.
Morocco’s Achraf Mahboubi defeated Serbia’s Ivan Karajlovic 12 – 10 in the round of 64 before losing to Spain’s Raul Martineze 22 – 26. Mali’s Ababacar Sadikh did not even make it to the mat as he was disqualified during the weigh-in.
In the female -67kg category, defending World and African Champion, Ruth Gbagi painfully lost at the quarterfinals to Azerbaijan’s Farida Azizora 6 – 8 after two last rapid round house kicks to the trunk. The Ivorian had earlier defeated Melissa Pagnotta of Canada 19 – 6 in the round of 16 and Norway’s Randi Dyngeland 25 – 5 in the round of 32.
In other matches in the same category, Morocco’s Wafae El Atri was defeated 6 – 12 by Chinese Taipei’s Kuan-Yu Chuang; Egypt’s Rewan Refaei was beaten 0 – 20 by Korea’s Jan-di Kim in the round of 32 after defeating Peru’s Diana Chirinos 21 – 4 in the round of 64. Senegal’s Warkha Ngom was disqualified after failing the weigh-in.
In the male +87kg category, the 2013 World Champion Anthony Obame of Gabon, who was another of the continent’s brightest chances was narrowly edged out 12 – 13 in the round of 16 by event Bronze medallist, Jordan’s Hamza Kattan after defeating Serbia’s Danilo Vukelic 9 – 1 in the round of 32.
The Jordanian that conquered Gabon’s taekwondo crown jewel had earlier knocked out Egypt’s Mohammed Ayman 2 – 9 in the round of 32.
Morocco’s Ayoub Bassel lost 5 – 12 to eventual Bronze medallist, Maicon of Brazil in the round of 32; Mozambique’s Itai Samuel Sango was defeated 3 – 24 by Chinese Taipei’s Guan-Ting Lin.
In a big blow, defending champion in the heavyweight +87kg category, Abdoul Issoufou of Niger Republic withdrew from the tournament, suspected to be because of a chronic injury. He was to battle Andreas Stylianou of Cyprus in the round of 32, among others.
Responding to the podium-less results posted by the African continent, Technical Director of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation and World Taekwondo Global Educator, Chika Chukwumerije, blamed the spending power and knowledge gap between Africa and the rest of the world.
“There is a huge financial spending gap between Africa and the rest of the World in the sport of Taekwondo. This foundational difference extends to tactical and technical knowledge between teams in Africa and other parts of the world, not to talk about the wide gap in available infrastructure. One in a while, flashes of brilliance emerge from the African continent. However, despite the obvious amount of talent on the continent, the lack of real sustainable development in knowledge acquisition, technology, infrastructure and people ensures the continent will lag behind the world.”
The three-time Olympian, who won a Bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, points to good leadership and collaboration as the way forward.
“Africa must rise and help itself and shed its current mindset that it is not good enough. We are good enough – good enough to build our infrastructure, manufacture our own equipment, develop our people, research, document and apply knowledge, develop our own technology. Our starting point might be crude, but every developed nation was once crude. For this to happen, visionary leadership, will power and keen collaboration across the continent is required.”
For the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Italy and Cuba all won gold medals. Other countries that won medals include Mexico, Spain, Iran, Jordan, Croatia, Brazil, Canada, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, Greece, Argentina, Latvia, Dominica Republic, Germany, Kazakhstan, Portugal and France.
A record 927 athletes from 145 countries plus 1 refugee team registered to compete at this year’s Championships making it the largest by numbers in the sport’s history.