MANCHESTER, UK – The opening day of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final Manchester 2023 dazzled spectators with jaw-dropping action and performances, culminating in athletes from Italy, Thailand, Hungary, China and Korea securing gold.
Vito Dell’Aquila of Italy won the title in the men -58kg to add to his growing collection which includes Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and World Championships 2022 golds, while Tokyo 2020 champion Panipak Wongpattanakit of Thailand finished the season in style by triumphing in the women -49kg.
Levente Mark Jozsa of Hungary stole the show in the men -68kg to claim his first-ever Grand Prix gold, and Zongshi Luo of China successfully defended her Grand Prix Final gold from Riyadh 2022 in the women -57kg. In the men -80kg, Geon-woo Seo again saw success in Manchester to claim the title, having won last year’s Grand Prix stop in the city.
International Paralympic Committee President (IPC) Andrew Parsons, who yesterday attended the Para Taekwondo Grand Prix, awarded various medals during the medal ceremony.
Dell’Aquila of Italy faced Spain’s Adrian Vicente Yunta in the final of the men’s -58kgkg in a fierce battle for the title.
The Italian got the scoreboard ticking 2-0 with a kick to the body, before following up with another to stretch his lead to 4-0. The two athletes traded body kicks to make it 6-2, before Vito Dell’Aquila extended his lead considerably with an additional two body kicks to take round one 10-2. In round two, after a scoreless first minute, the Spaniard landed the first blow with a kick to the body to open 2-0. Not to be outdone, Vito Dell’Aquila connected with a head kick to regain the lead and, ultimately, take the round 4-2 to make his way to the top of the podium and Grand Prix glory.
2023 World Championship silver medallist Hugo Arillo Vazquez of Spain claimed bronze after Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi of Tunisia withdrew from the contest.
In the semi-final, Dell’Aquila went head-to-head with Spain’s Arillo Vazquez. Dell’Aquila, who had looked in top form all competition, took the match 2-0 to move into the final. In the other semi-final, Vicente Yunta faced Jendoubi of Tunisia in a fierce and close contest, but it was the Spaniard who eventually triumphed 2-1.
In a rematch of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic final, Panipak Wongpattanakit faced Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Adriana Cerezo Iglesias of Spain in the women -49kg gold medal match.
Round one remained scoreless until the final 30 seconds when a video review confirmed that Wongpattanakit landed a head kick to make the score 3-0. Two Gam-jeoms gave the Thai athlete a 5-0 lead which she held to close out the first round 5-2. On the hunt for Tokyo 2020 revenge, Cerezo Iglesias came out firing, but the highly experienced Wongpattanakit put on a defensive masterclass to hold the score at 0-0. The Thai fighter then connected with two body kicks and a Gam-Jeom against the Spaniard extended her lead to 5-0. Despite conceding two Gam-Jeoms in the final seconds, Thailand’s Wongpattanakit took the round 5-2 and celebrated Grand Prix Final gold.
The bronze medal match saw a battle between the 2022 and 2023 World Champions Daniela Paola Souza of Mexico and Merve Dincel Kavurat of Türkiye, respectively. After a scoreless first minute, Dincel Kavurat took an early 2-0 lead in round one with a kick to the body, before landing an impressive reverse turning kick to the head and two head kicks to take it 13-0. Round two saw Gam-jeoms traded before Souza landed a kick to the body of her own to take the lead 3-1. However, despite Souza’s best efforts, Dincel Kavurat landed a flurry of ruthless blows in the closing minute to take round two 11-3 and claim bronze.
Wongpattanakit of Thailand met Souza of Mexico in the semi-final. The match was closely contested throughout, but Wongpattanakit’s experience and mental focus shone through for a hard-fought 2-1 victory. Spain’s Cerezo Iglesias went head-to-head with Dincel Kavurat of Türkiye in the other semi-final. It was a close and fascinating contest in which the Spaniard eventually triumphed 2-0.
In his first-ever Grand Prix final, Hungary’s rising star Levente Mark Jozsa took on Spain’s Javier Perez Polo.
Both athletes came out firing in the first round, but defense ruled the contest with the scoreboard remaining at 0-0 until the final seconds when Jozsa landed a kick to the body and the Spaniard conceded two Gam-jeoms to give Jozsa a quick 4-0 lead. The Hungarian athlete conceded a Gam-jeom in the final second, but still took the round 4-1. The Spaniard fought back in a closely contested round two which in a tie, but saw Perez Polo level the scores based on PTF.
The deciding round was extremely close, with the Hungarian landing an impressive body kick to start 2-0. Perez Polo later connected with a head kick to steal the lead at 2-3, but Jozsa wasted no time regaining the lead with a body kick to make it 4-3 and take his first-ever Grand Prix gold.
Riyadh 2022 Grand Prix Final gold medallist Zaid Kareem of Jordan won bronze following fellow Jordanian Zaid Alhalawani’s withdrawal.
Hungary’s Jozsa went head-to-head with Zaid Kareem of Jordan in the semi-final. Unrelenting in his attack, Jozsa downed the defending champion and claimed the match 2-0 on his route to gold. In the other semi-final, Perez Polo bested Jordan’s Zaid Alhalawani, who took down home favourite Bradly Sinden in the quarterfinals, in a tense 2-1 battle.
In the women -57kg final, 2022 World Champion and reigning Riyadh 2022 Grand Prix Final winner Zongshi Luo faced the USA’s Faith Dillon in a thrilling contest.
Luo opened the scoring with a flurry of blows to take a quick 12-0 lead, before landing another head kick and gaining another point via a Gam-jeom to make it 16-0. Dillon tried to claw back the score, landing a head kick to make it 16-2, but the highly experienced Luo swiftly landed another head kick to make it 19-2 in a fierce first round.
In round two, Luo opened the scoring with body and multiple head kicks to make it 8-0. A Gam-jeom made it 8-1 in Luo’s favour, but Dillon landed a turning kick to body and a body kick to claw back to 8-7. Not prepared to go down without a fight, Dillon gained her first lead of the match after an exchange of blows took the score to 11-13. The formidable Luo did not stay down for long, however, as she landed kicks and a Gam-jeom gave her the lead at 18-13. In one final statement, Luo connected with a head kick to close out the round 21-13 and defend her Grand Prix Final title.
Home favourite Aaliyah Powell of Great with took bronze following Chinese Taipei’s Chia-ling Lo’s withdrawal from the contest.
In the semi-final, the USA’s Faith Dillon went up against Powell of Great Britain. With both athletes having never gone further than bronze in a World Taekwondo Grand Prix, Powell and Dillon gave it their all in front of an electric crowd. However, it was not to be for Powell who fell to the impressive Dillon 2-0. Luo of China met Chinese Taipei’s Lo in the other semi-final. It was Luo who triumphed 2-0 in a highly skilled display of Taekwondo to move into the final.
Geon-woo Seo of Korea went head-to-head with Egypt’s Seif Eissa in an electric men -80kg final to close out day one of incredible Taekwondo action in Manchester.
In round one, the Egyptian connected first with a kick to the head, but Seo responded quickly with a body kick to make the score 3-2. Eissa landed another head kick to stretch his lead to 6-2, before the Egyptian traded a body kick for the Korean’s torso punch for a 8-3 scoreline. In an impressive display, Eissa connected with a turning torso kick to take a commanding 12-3 lead and, despite Seo’s best efforts, closed out the round 12-4. Round two was a completely different story as Seo’s stamina shone through as he opened the scoring with a body kick and punch to take a 3-0 lead. The Korean quickly moved ahead to 9-1 and, with half a minute to go, kept up the pressure to take the round 15-2.
In an intense deciding round, the Egyptian and Korean traded blows. However, Seo’s stamina and physical fitness enabled him to go the distance, finishing with a flourish to take the round 22-13 and top the podium.
In the bronze medal match, Tokyo 2020 silver medallist CJ Nickolas of the USA won bronze after facing Jordan’s two-time Grand Prix gold medallist Saleh Elsharabaty. The American kicked off the scoring with two push kicks to the body and later extended his lead in the closing 15 seconds with a head kick to take round one 8-2. Before contesting the second round, Elsharabaty, who had been struggling physically in the first round, conceded the match to Nickolas.
Seo faced Elsharabaty of Jordan in the semi-finals. It was a high-scoring affair, with both athletes trading blows and the Korean mounting an impressive comeback to take the second set. Continuing with the momentum, Seo closed out the final round to progress to the final. In the other semi-final, Egypt’s Eissa overcame Nickolas of the USA 2-0 to book his place in the final.
The thrilling competition will continue tomorrow with the M+80kg, W+67kg and W-67kg categories, before the 2023 Grand Prix season comes to a close with the World Taekwondo Gala Awards.