Taekwondo will debut at the Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020. Athletes will contend six medal events, and Paralympic.org is profiling each event ahead of those Games.
Rapid kicks, precision strikes and one of the sport’s great rivalries define the women’s up to 49 kg K44/K43, the lightest women’s weight division.
Twelve fighters will earn qualification slots for their countries for Tokyo in this division: six via world rankings (four from K44, two from K43), five through continental qualification tournaments (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania), and one from the host country or special invitation.
Here are the top women fighting for a place at the Games:
World rankings route
Mongolia’s world champion Enkhtuya Khurelbaatar is the woman to beat in the K44 division. She has lost just once since her international career began in 2016 and has a comfortable 82-point world rankings lead.
Turkey’s world No. 2 Meryem Betul Cavdar handed her that loss at the 2017 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Games and has become a serious rival, with the two engaging in some of the sport’s most competitive fights.
Ukraine’s Vika Marchuk was one of the sport’s first stars. The five-time world champion remains at the top of the K43 category.
Continental qualification route
Those who have not claimed qualification slots through the world rankings route will need to win a continental qualification tournament in early 2020. Countries that have secured four slots already in the six divisions will not be able to send athletes to these tournaments where, for the first time, K43 fighters will face their K44 foes.
Morocco’s Soukaina Es-Sabbar (world No. 8 in K44) is the only African athlete in the top 20.
Peru’s Leonor Espinoza Carranza, the USA’s Sophie Gimeno, and Cuba’s Lilisbet Rodriguez Rivero are all in the top 20 K44 fighters and expected to battle it out for the Americas title.
In the Asian tournament, India’s Sonali and Nepal’s Ranjana Dhami, both K44 fighters, will have to face serious competition from the K43 side, like India’s Aruna (No. 5 in K43).
Australia’s Kara Fournie (K44) is favourite to emerge from the Oceania qualifiers.
Host country route
Japan has up to three positions across the six divisions and must select at least one woman. While Japan has world ranked athletes in four of the six divisions, there are currently no ranked Japanese athletes in the women’s up to 49kg.