Mexican Para fighters were the stars of the Pan America Para Taekwondo Open, winning three golds between 13 and 15 July in Spokane, Washington. In contrast, hosts USA were left disappointed after failing to claim a single title at the continental tournament. There was added incentive for Americas fighters at the competition, as all ranking points for them were doubled.
Romero leads Mexican surge
Claudia Romero got things rolling for Mexico with a decisive victory over Peru’s Leonor Espinoza Carranza in the women’s up to 49kg K44 division to win her second Pan Am title. Romero is currently her country’s highest-ranked fighter at world No. 3, and the win strengthens her claim on a Tokyo 2020 spot. She joins Mongolia’s Enkhtuya Khurelbaatar and Turkey’s Meryum Betul Cavdar in dominating the division, with the top four-ranked fighters at the end of 2018 automatically qualifying for the sport’s Paralympic debut.
After picking up a US Open title earlier this year, Romero’s teammate Juan Diego Garcia Lopez showed he is a fighter to watch in the region. He capitalised on a winnable men’s up to 75 kg K44 division that featured just one Top 10-ranked fighter to win his first continental championship.
Jessica Garcia Quijano rounded off the golden trio for Mexico in the women’s up to 58 kg K44 group after edging home favourite Brianna Salinaro 6-4 in the final. There is consolation for Salinaro as her silver should see her rise to No. 3 in the next world rankings. Both fighters took advantage of an injury to Denmark’s top-seeded Lisa Gjessing – who has never lost an international fight – to gain the extra points.
Top seeds come through
After a year of shocks and setbacks for some of the world’s best fighters, the Pan Ams saw familiar faces return to winning ways.
World No. 1 Ivan Mikulic of Croatia finally claimed his first international win since the 2016 European Championships, denying the USA’s No. 3-ranked Evan Medell an additional 24 ranking points by besting him in the men’s over 75 kg K44 group.
Great Britain’s Amy Truesdale also got back on track in Spokane, beating the USA’s Alyssa Fencil to claim the women’s over 58 kg K44 gold medal. After finishing 2017 with an unblemished record, the division’s No. 1 seed had lost all three tournaments she had fought in this year before her success in Washington.
Mongolia’s Bolor-Erdene Ganbat was another favourite who returned to form. After only managing bronze at the European Championships earlier this year – the first time he had failed to make a major tournament final – the men’s up to 61 kg K44 world No. 1 bounced back to win his first Pan Am title.
France’s Bopha Kong continued his perfect 2018 with a dominant 17-4 win over Guatemala’s Gersson Mejia in the men’s up to 61kg K43. He adds a Pan Am gold medal to his 2018 collection of African, Asian, European, and US Open titles.
New stars emerge
Brazil’s young fighter Nathan Troquato had a tournament to remember in Spokane, claiming his first medal at a continental championship. At just 17 years old, Troquato bested Argentina’s Facundo Andres Novik and Japan’s Chikara Ito to reach the men’s up to 61kg K44 final, where he lost 25-14 to Ganbat.
Great Britain’s Joseph Lane also had a breakthrough performance in Spokane, winning his first international medal with silver in the men’s up to 75 kg division.
Japan’s Kenta Awatari continued his breakout 2018 by claiming his second international medal. He takes home bronze after pushing top-ranked Kong in a hard-fought 29-22 semi-final loss.