Paralympic Games
24 August - 5 September 2021

Taekwondo champ Lisa Gjessing keen on kicking to glory at Tokyo

As Para taekwondo makes it debut at the Paralympic Games, the Dane will be looking to add another title to her illustrious career 09 Aug 2021
Female taekwondo athlete with right arm impairment walks off away from matt
THE CHAMP: Lisa Gjessing will be the one to watch out for at Tokyo 2020 as the sport Para taekwondo makes its debut.
ⒸWorld Taekwondo
By AMP Media I For The IPC

Lisa Gjessing has achieved everything there is to achieve in Para taekwondo, including four World Championship titles, but when talking about her first Paralympic Games, she does so with the giddy excitement of a teenager.

“I am visualising it already, I want to go now,” the Danish under 58kg K44 champion said. “I’m really excited for the Opening Ceremony. I’ve always been so passionate about the Paralympics, watching people come together from all over the world, competing with no thought of race and religion. It is a wonderful event, and to be a part of it has been a big dream of mine for many years.”

Gjessing was not sure her sport would ever make it on to the programme. “I was happy with just being able to compete at World Championships, but when the Paralympics became a possibility, nothing was going to stop me from being a part of it. I didn’t even have a choice. I had to do it. It’s been a goal since my daughters were very small, and now they are 12 and 15, so it’s a long time.

“I have never been so determined for a competition as I am for this one. I work full time and I’m a mother, so in the past I’ve had to make a lot of compromises with work, and could only use a certain amount of time for training.

“But for the Paralympics I’ve had more support than ever, from my federation and work. My mind is set on doing everything I can to make this happen. I am so motivated and there are no excuses for not being 100 percent ready.”

Lisa Gjessing of Denmark in action.


Gjessing was a member of Denmark’s able-bodied taekwondo squad but developed cancer. Her left hand was amputated in May 2012 and she had to relearn her sport. “I was doing taekwondo when I was younger, then I stopped due to work and kids. Getting back into it, there was some adapting, because you use your whole body in taekwondo. But because it’s mostly about kicking, I can do most of what other people doing the sport can do.”

Gjessing does legal work for the Danish police director, and the COVID-19 pandemic has afforded her flexibility when it comes to training. “They’ve let me train in the morning and work in the afternoon. It is busy, but it’s great. And my family has got involved, coming to training camps, too, which is nice. I have been teaching my girls to kick.”

Competing at Tokyo 2020 will close a circle that began nine years ago. While recuperating, she was inspired by the London 2012 Paralympic Games. “After surgery, I was feeling insecure about who I was. Then I saw the Games in London, and it really hit me. I was blown away by these people competing, smiling, crying, being part of something bigger than themselves. I made the choice that I also wanted to do this.”

And she has done it, in style. “It’s been crazy. People told me I’d have a depression after my amputation. I didn’t have that. Instead, I had something else, something that fills me out with love and caring and opportunities. I would definitely like to have two hands, it would make some things easier, but my life is definitely not worse since what happened. I love my life and I’m thankful.”