MANCHESTER, UK – Taekwondo’s finest athletes, coaches and officials were today recognised at the World Taekwondo 2023 Gala Awards, marking a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary season.
The Gala Awards serve as a celebration of excellence, recognising outstanding athletes, coaches and officials who have left their mark on the global Taekwondo stage throughout the year.
World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue opened the Gala Awards with a rousing speech that celebrated the global success of Taekwondo in its jubilee year. The World Taekwondo President also highlighted the unveiling of a Taekwondo statue at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, as well as the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) being awarded the Olympic Cup by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach as two notable achievements in 2023.
The President then welcomed the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Yasmine Dar, who noted the city’s honour to again host the Taekwondo family. The British Taekwondo President Sarah Stevenson also welcomed the Gala attendees before proceedings got underway.
The awards commenced with the World Taekwondo President announcing Great Britain as the recipient of the MMA of the Year Award. The Para Taekwondo MMA of the Year was awarded to Mexico for its efforts to promote Para Taekwondo in the country and beyond.
The 2023 Gala also saw the introduction of the Sustainability Awards for the first time across three key focus areas. The inaugural awards went to Australia for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community, Belgium for Health and Well-being, and Costa Rica for Environmental Sustainability.
Meanwhile, the Kick of the Year Award was presented to Côte d’Ivoire’s Ruth Gbagbi.
Moving onto the biggest awards of the night – the best athletes, referees and coaches – this year marked a slight departure in the voting method. Previously, the awards were decided by votes from players and coaches present at the gala site, but this year votes were cast before the gala with a 50% weighting. The other 50% belongs with the WT Technical Commission’s recommendations.
The Best Female Athlete of 2023 crown went to Merve Dincel of Türkiye. 2023 proved to be her most successful year yet on the international circuit, including Baku 2023 World Championships gold and her first ever Grand Prix gold in Paris.
Côte d’Ivoire’s decorated Cheick Sallah Cissé, the reigning World Champion, was awarded the title of Best Male Athlete of the year. It was the perfect end to a Sunday for the Ivorian Taekwondo sensation, who just hours earlier won the title at the Grand Prix Final to add to his extensive collection of gold medals.
The Best Coach award went to Rosendo Alonso, who is currently coaching with the French Taekwondo Federation programme. He has played a key role in the development of a strong Taekwondo programme in the country with the Olympic Games Paris 2024 on the horizon.
Agnieszka Scheffler of Poland was recognised as the Best Female Referee, while Ayman Al-Adarbeh of Jordan was named the Best Male Referee of 2023.
Adding to the accolades, the stars of Para Taekwondo were also recognised during the Gala Awards. Mexico’s Claudia Romero, who took gold at both the Paris and Taiyuan Para Taekwondo Grand Prix, along with bronze at the World Para Taekwondo Championships in Veracruz, was recognised as the Best Para Female Athlete.
Meanwhile, Para Taekwondo World Champion Antonino Bossolo of Italy was crowned the Best Para Male Athlete following a successful year that also included gold at the Paris 2023 Para Taekwondo Grand Prix.
Rodrigo Ferla, who continues to play a key role in strengthening Brazil’s gold standard Para Taekwondo programme, was awarded the Best Para Coach of 2023.