The Para taekwondo world rankings – and the strongest measuring stick for Tokyo 2020 qualification – have drastically shifted following a busy February that included the World Championships.
A wave of new stars emerged from the Worlds in Antalya, Turkey; and have cracked into the top 10 to improve their chances of a Paralympic debut.
Thailand’s Khwandusa Phuangkitcha’s surprise win in the women’s up to 49 kg K44 sees her make the biggest jump of 11 spots to No. 5, just three points off an automatic qualification spot.
China’s Yujie Li topped some of the best in the women’s up to 58 kg K44 to take world gold and enters at No. 8.
Mexico’s teenage sensation Juan Diego Garcia Lopez used his first Worlds to enter as No. 3 in the men’s up to 75 kg K44, 90 points behind Iran’s division-leading Mahdi Pourrahnama.
For Brazil’s world champion and No. 4 Debora Menezes, the qualification spot for Tokyo 2020 is now hers to lose in the women’s over 58 kg K44 .
With the emergence of Great Britain’s new world champion Matt Bush, the men’s over 75 kg K44 now has nine fighters within 100 points of each other in the race for the four qualifying spots.
Stars emerge from US Open
Garcia Lopez got by a stiff semi-final challenge from Japan’s Shunsuke Kudo on his way to US Open gold in Las Vegas, while Menezes also added a US Open title by defeating Turkey’s Nurcihan Ekinci in the final.
Perhaps no star shone brighter than Brazilian teen Nathan Torquato. After besting some of the division’s top fighters to win African Open Championship gold last month, he held off Turkey’s Ali Can Ozcan to claim the US Open.
The hosts once again failed to claim a title on home soil, with home favourites Evan Medell, Sophie Gimenez, and Brianna Salinaro all falling short in their respective finals.
More names to know
A dozen fighters from across the Americas used the Parapan American qualification tournament in the Dominican Republic to book their tickets to the sport’s Parapan debut later this summer in Lima, Peru.
Dominican Republic’s Geraldo Castro Encarnacion had the home fans cheering by topping Guatemala’s Gersson Mejia on his way to silver and a spot at Lima 2019. He lost in the final to Mexico’s Ivan Torres Perez, who claimed his first international title.
Argentina’s Juan Eduardo Samarano had a tournament to remember in his international debut, winning all three of his fights.
Familiar faces triumph
The President’s Cup tournament in Iran saw local world champion Pourrahnama get back on track after a shock exit at Antalya 2019. He bested teammate Mahmoud Jafarzadah in the men’s up to 75 kg K44 final.
Ukraine’s former world champion Anton Shvets topped the podium in the men’s up to 75 kg K43 after falling short at the Worlds. Five-time world champion teammate Vika Marchuk also claimed gold, winning the women’s up to 49 kg K43 title.