Olympic-bound Anyanacho Rises In Latest World Taekwondo Ranking
By Chika Chukwumerije
Nigeria’s Tokyo Olympics-bound Elizabeth Anyanacho is now ranked 62nd in the world, according to the latest ‘world ranking’ for May 2021, published by World Taekwondo on its website.
The 22-year-old Elizabeth who only started competing in 2017 became the first woman in 16 years to qualify Nigeria for the Taekwondo event of the Olympics.
The steady climb of her world ranking speaks volumes of Elizabeth’s progress on the world taekwondo stage. At the start of 2019, Elizabeth Anyanacho had no world ranking. By May 2019, she was ranked 163rd in the world and by December 2019, she was ranked 85th in the world.
World ranking records in June 2020 show that Elizabeth climbed up to the 71st position before the global lockdown on sporting activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resumption of the international competitive schedule in 2021 has seen Elizabeth Anyanacho grabbing vital points at the Turkish open, despite losing at the quarter-finals stage.
The lack of funding has been a setback that cost Elizabeth participation at the Sophia Open and Spanish Open, which held earlier in the year. The first timer to the Olympic games would have picked up important world ranking points and competitive experience.
169 Nigerians donated funds that enabled Elizabeth compete at the Turkish Open, which led to her improved world ranking of 62.
In a surprise visit to Elizabeth Training camp last week, the Honourable Minister Sunday Dare has promised to leave no stones unturned in supporting Elizabeth’s preparations, starting with her scheduled participation at the forthcoming African Taekwondo championships.
Based on the latest ranking, Elizabeth is now 6th in Africa behind Ruth Gbagbi of Cote D’Ivoire , Egypt’s Hedaya Malak , Gabon’s Urgence Mouega , Marie Frederique Ekpitini of Cote D’Ivoire  and Wafae El Atri of Morocco .
Speaking on her improved world ranking, Elizabeth said it has inspired her as she reveals future targets.
“It is just numbers on a table but seeing the improved ranking is motivating because it shows that I have been working extremely hard in training. Certainly, we want to be on the top at some point and the only way to get there is to keep going. Our current target is to be in the top 20 in the world within the next two years, but that requires a lot of resources and exposure. It has been difficult, but I am grateful for everyone who has supported me so far.”
The soft-spoken Elizabeth will have an opportunity to increase her world ranking when she hits Dakar Senegal in a fortnight for the World Taekwondo G-4 ranked African Taekwondo Championships. It will also test her Tokyo 2020 Olympic readiness, as two of her Olympic opponents will also participate at the event.
The event, which holds 5 – 6 June at the Dakar Sports Arena, will undoubtably pit Nigeria’s Elizabeth Anyanacho against fellow Olympic qualifiers, Ruth Gbagbi of Cote D’Ivoire who is a former World Champion, Africa’s number one and Rio 2016 Bronze medalist; and Egypt’s Hedaya Malak who is the current All African Games Champion and also won a bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
With the Tokyo Olympics just 10 weeks away, the battle of the continent’s Olympic representatives at the African Championships will leave winners walking away with crucial world ranking points and, more importantly, huge psychological capital.