The USA’s Para taekwondo fighter Evan Medell is taking on a fully loaded schedule to size up to his competitors.
A 20-year-old student at the University of Central Oklahoma, Medell only began competing internationally two years ago. Medell is currently ranked No. 4 in the men’s over 75kg K44 and is hoping to compete in the full set of World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) events this year, hoping that more experience will help him catch up to his opponents.
“Athletes from Russia, Iran, Croatia have several more years of international experience,” said Medell. “The athletes on those teams are the ones you want to compete against and measure yourself to. Every tournament allows me to learn something new and helps me develop into a better fighter.”
Medell can find encouragement in his recent competitions. He won the US and Canada Opens last year and took a big step in May by defeating Croatia’s world No. 1 Ivan Mikulic at the Oceania Para Taekwondo Open. The gold medal was redemption for a two-point loss to Mikulic at the European Championships last year.
“When you are in the gym and weight room everyday training, it’s hard to see the incremental improvement,” said Medell. “It’s a testament to the last eight months of my coaching and training.”
His training includes 10 hours a week on the mat and six to 12 hours a week in the gym. This is in addition to his full-time studies and full-time job during the summer. He is also increasing his strength training to bulk up.
He attributes his successes to the coaching received from Jason Poos while training at the University of Central Oklahoma, and US Para taekwondo national coach Brad DeMinck.
“Coach DeMinck has been my coach from the very first day I stepped on the mat,” said Medell. “He saw in my abilities, not my disability.”
He noted that the USA did not have a Para taekwondo organisational structure when the sport was added to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic programme two years ago.
“Para Taekwondo is in its infancy in the US, so there are a lot of growing pains,” he said. “Slowly the structure and organisation of the sport is developing and participation is increasing.”
“Up until two years ago it was not possible for me, but now I have the chance to be the first-ever athlete to represent the USA in the Paralympics in the sport … [and] to win the first-ever gold medal at the Paralympics in taekwondo – it’s an incredible opportunity and privilege,” he added.
Next up on his schedule is the Asian Para Taekwondo Open on 8 July in Chuncheon, South Korea.
He is no stranger to the region, having trained at the Kyung Hee University in Seoul last year. The nation is the birthplace of the sport and expected to draw tough competition, including five of the top 10 fighters in the world rankings in Chuncheon, including Russia’s No 3 Zainutdin Atatev.*
“I love to compete, so this will be a good measuring tool of my development,” said Medell. “Win or lose, competing against high-level athletes will only make you better.”
*Editor’s note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games. For further information please click here.