The road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games continues with the Mexico Open Para Taekwondo Championships beginning on Friday in Mexico City.
As a G-1 event (where winners receive 10 ranking points), the event has drawn a record 54 fighters, as athletes battle to earn as many ranking points as possible to qualify for their sport’s Paralympic debut.
The host nation will be represented by 16 fighters, including newly-crowned world champion Juan Diego Garcia Lopez.
“New fighters with new techniques make it difficult, [so] I can’t let up,” Lopez said. “But winning is the best motivation.”
Mexico looks to cement its status as a regional powerhouse in advance of the sport’s debut at this summer’s Parapan Am Games in Lima, Peru. In addition to world champion Lopez, the team will be led by Claudia Romero, currently ranked No. 3 in the women’s up to 58 kg division and a Parapan Am Games favourite.
With four seeds in the men’s up to 61 kg K44 gaining automatic qualification to Tokyo 2020, all the fighters in form will be in Mexico City, including Turkey’s Ali Can Ozcan, Italy’s Antonino Bossolo, Spain’s Aythami Santana Santana, and Russia’s Askhat Akmatov. Brazil’s Nathan Torquato, who has made the final in his last two tournaments, will also look to continue his hot run.
On the K43 side, where only two fighters automatically qualify, world No. 3 Anthony Cappello of Canada – Most Valuable Player at February’s World Championships – will also try to make up ground.
The men’s over 75 kg K44 division is the sport’s most competitive, with nine fighters separated by less than 100 points at the top of the division. The division’s No. 2, 3, and 5 seeds (USA’s Evan Medell, and Russia’s Zainutdin Ataev and Aliskhab Ramazanov, respectively) will look for an edge with a solid showing this weekend.
Women to watch for
Five other fighters are battling for the remaining three qualifying spots for Tokyo in the women’s over 58kg K44.
Great Britain’s Amy Truesdale has a commanding lead in the rankings. France’s Laura Schiel was recently bumped from the top four thanks to the emergence of Brazil’s Debora Menezes, the surprise winner at the 2019 Worlds. But Schiel will hope to get back on track with a strong performance in Mexico.