After the announcement earlier this year that para-taekwondo would be included in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic programme, stakes got higher for the 2015 World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Para-Taekwondo World Championships.
And it was the Russian team who showed they are serious contenders to occupy the Paralympic podiums. This triumph from Russia at the World Championships in September becomes No. 43 in the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2015.
The world champion in the K42 under 49 kg category Sakinat Magomedova reflected on those Championships: “It was a long way for me to get to that competition. It took me a lot of effort to make it to the Championships.
Before this, I was not allowed to participate following the results of medical check-up. I finally achieved what I was working for all this time.”
Russia won both the overall men and women’s titles at the World Championships in Samsun, Turkey. Magomedova celebrated success together with her other teammates, including Zaira Irazieva, who took gold after beating Turkey’s Ayse Dudu Karatay in the K42 over 58 kg category.
The Russian women also took a one silver and one bronze.
In the men’s division, Russia took two golds, one silver and three bronze medals. It saw victories from Vladislav Krichfalushiy, who got the best of Turkey’s Abdennour El Fedayni for gold in the K41 under 61kg division. Spartak Gazzaev added another gold after his victory over Poland’s Przemyslaw Wieczorek in the K41 over 75kg.
After winning the World Championships, Magomedova looked at her professional career from a different angle. The 37-year-old also enjoyed a warm welcome back home and met one of the biggest fans of martial arts in Russia, President Vladimir Putin.
“I had some doubts before these World Championships,” she said. “After winning gold, I felt like I proved a lot to my coaches. This was important to me.”
“When they told me that para-taekwondo became a Paralympic sport, I didn’t believe it first. I thought it was a practical joke before I saw our coach’s letter congratulating us officially on this historic decision,” Magomedova said.
“I will try to keep training, but my age is a big problem. A lot of younger athletes will try very hard to make the national team before Paralympics,” Magomedova, 37, added.
Still, she is enjoying the signs of growth in the sport, as is Russian coach Aleksandr Efremov.
“If we look back at the history of Olympics and Paralympics, it sometimes takes decades of international competitions for a sport to be included in Olympic or Paralympic programme,” Efremov said. “We were happy about it.”
Efremov, who used to be a head coach of the Russian taekwondo team, first saw para-taekwondo in 2010 in Azerbaijan. He enjoyed watching it, and decided to create a federation and set up a national team. As a result, Russia had one of the first professionally trained para-taekwondo national teams.
“In general, Europe gives more job opportunities for people with disabilities than Russia. Whereas most athletes in Europe treat their training and competitions as a hobby, Russian para-athletes think of it as their profession and sometimes the only source of income.”
With less than five years to go to Tokyo 2020, many other nations will get a chance to challenge Russia’s dominance in the sport.
You can find out more about the Top 50 Moments of 2015 at the dedicated webpage.