The main start in taekwondo world is just a stone’s throw away. Very soon, the stars of this martial art will come to Chelyabinsk. We introduce ten most decorated taekwondoists of the world. We give credit to Chelyabinsk friends Olga Ivanova and Anastasia Baryshnikova, admire the rivalry in the heavy weight between the French Gwladys Épangue and Anne Caroline Graffe, and note the merits of a miniature Brigitte Yague Enrique from Spain.
10. Olga IVANOVA (Russia)
The Chelyabinsk athlete remains Russia’s one and only who succeeded in claiming the gold of world championships. For the Russian taekwondo her victory is a major and significant achievement. In the Mexican city of Puebla in the final match Olga Ivanova defeated the competition’s host Briseida Acosta. The Russian’s collection also features a bronze of the 2011 World Championships from Gyeongju, Korea.
Olga Ivanova is a stable athlete. She is almost always among medal contenders at tournaments of any level. She is also performing great during this season being ranked second in the +73kg weight division. No doubt the Russian team’s coaches will enter Ivanova for the 2015WC. Especially considering that it will take place in the athlete’s home town. We will hope that the crowd’s support will help her perform well.
9. Nur TATAR (Turkey)
The Turk is famous for her fighter spirit and charisma. It is probably for this reason that she has a reputation of a giant-killer. However, thanks to her stable successful performances, Nur Tatar has been among the leaders of the -67kg weight category for a long time. It is just a disappointing coincidence that she has no medals from world championships.
On the plus side, Nur Tatar is a silver medalist of the Olympic Games. In London 2012, she lost the final to Korea’s Hwang Kyung-Seon.
The Turk’s results this season are mixed, but she is in Top 10 of the world and Olympic rankings.
8. Anastasia BARYSHNIKOVA (Russia)
One more Chelyabinsk athlete who is looking forward to the world championships that will be held in her home city. Baryshnikova has played a crucial role for the South Ural taekwondo. She was the first to achieve major victories on the world level.
Her performance at the 2012 London Olympic Games became a key one in her career. Along with Alexey Denisenko she brought Russia a bronze medal. Keep in mind that in 2004 and 2008 the Russians had no Olympic medalists whatsoever in taekwondo.
Baryshnikova also has two bronze medals of world championships that she earned in 2009 and 2011. The upcoming 2015WC will be her fourth. In the -67kg weight category the Russian will certainly be one of the main contenders.
7. Milica MANDIC (Serbia)
The pretty brunette from Serbia symbolizes taekwondo in this country. She is an undisputable leader and hero of her team. She succeeds in competing in several weight categories. In international tournaments, Milica Mandic fights in -73kg and +73kg, and she is number one in the Olympic +67kg ranking.
This athlete’s moment of glory were the 2012 Olympic Games in London. In the semifinal there she beat Anastasia Baryshnikova, and in the final she defeated Anne Caroline Graffe from France. The gold she won became Serbia’s first in summer Olympics.
In world championships, Mandic is not that successful. She has a bronze of 2011WC in the Korean city of Gyeongju. Besides, the Serbian athlete is not always stable throughout the season. Her recent failures include elimination in the first round of Grand Prix Final after being defeated by Espinoza from Mexico.
6. Jade JONES (GreatBritain)
The ever-smiling and optimistic British girl made the entire Foggy Albion fall in love with her after her fascinating victory at the Olympic Games in London. Being just 19 years of age! One cannot say that the success was a sensation. By that time, Jones had already had a bronze of the European championships and silver medal of the worlds, but nevertheless, to become the best one at the main event of four years is a significant achievement.
She is also performing great this season being among the leaders in the -57kg weight category. Her rivalry with Eva Calvo Gomez from Spain is becoming a world taekwondo classic. And we should admit that it is not Jones who has taken the lead. This season, they met three times in Grand Prix tournaments, and all three times Gomez was the winner. But in the Grand Prix Final that finished recently in Mexico, the Briton took revenge beating her opponent 7:3. This fact might have played its role in determining the prize-winners of the passing year. The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) announced Jones the Female Player of the Year.
5. Anna Caroline GRAFFE (France)
Over the past seven years this talented Frenchwoman has been fighting on the highest level in the women’s heavy weight division. With mixed results. They might have been even better but for her rivalry with her compatriot Gwladys Épangue. And although the coaches of the French team do their best to put the two strong athletes in different weight categories, they don’t always succeed.
Nevertheless, Anna Caroline Graffe managed to gain a substantial collection of awards from international tournaments. It includes, among others, a silver of the 2012 Olympic Games, a gold of the 2011 World Championships, and a bronze of the last world championships in the Mexican city of Puebla.
4. HWANG Kyung-Seon (South Korea)
In the period from 2005 to 2012, the weight category -67kg was virtually owned by this Korean athlete. Hwang Kyung-Seon beat all and sundry. With remarkable composure. She did not take part in too many ranking tournaments counting on the main events of the season. This tactics brought her success.
The Korean won the gold of the 2007 and 2009 world championships, and became the strongest at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. All this lets her remain one of the most decorated taekwondoists of the world.
Hwang Kyung-Seon is 28 now, and it seems that the best years of her career are over. At least, this year she took part in three Grand Prix tournaments, and every time returned home defeated.
3. WU Jingyu (China)
One more decorated Asian athlete who has two gold medals of world championships and Olympic Games alike. The first victory is dated by 2007, when Wu Jingyu became the strongest on the planet winning the world championships in Beijing. Then she consolidated her success winning at the main event of four years.
She also had an excellent performance in the next Olympic cycle – another success at the world championships and next year in London 2012..
This year she does not enter the dojang so often. Apparently, the coaches of Team China decided to spare the athlete. Taking part in two tournaments, the Chinese won solid victories in both. It looks like at the 2015WC she will be the main favorite again. If she manages to claim the gold, in the Olympic Rio Wu Jingyu will have to make history of the world female taekwondo.
2. Gwladys ÉPANGUE (France)
The Frenchwoman is one of the most decorated taekwondoists of modern times. Gwladys Épangue stood on the podium of world championships four (!) times. Includingtwotimesonthetop. She also came close to conquering the Olympic podium but lost in the 2008 Olympic semifinal in Beijing to Korean Hwang Kyung-Seon and got a bronze.
She could have also gone to her second Olympic Games. One year before them, she even won an Olympic qualification tournament. But by that time, Anna Caroline Graffe had gained power and strength, and Team France’s coaches’ choice in the heavy weight was not in favor of Épangue.
Of course, like any other athlete, Gwladys cannot be called unbeatable. But Épangue has every right to be called one of the most stable taekwondoists of the world.
1. Brigitte YAGUE (Spain)
The miniature Spanish athlete is the most successful female taekwondoist in the history of world championships. In the period from 1998 to 2011, Brigitte Yague Gonzalez won six medals of the event. Including three golds!
Meanwhile, in Olympic taekwondo tournaments, she is far from getting it all. In 2004 she was eliminated in the very first round, in 2008 she did not participate at all as she failed to qualify, and only in 2012 she finally managed to get a medal.
She is 33 now, at the WC2015 she will be 34. She seldom competes in international tournaments. But if she does enter the mat, she fights for the victory till the end. Thus, this year she won a Grand Prix tournament in Manchester getting an opportunity to compete in Grand Prix Finals. In the Mexican city of Querétaro she proved that it’s too early to write her off. It was only in the final that Yague lost to Croatia’s Lucija Zaninovic to become the silver medalist of this prestigious tournament.
P.S. The author of the article would like to thank Chelyabinsk athletes Vyacheslav Minin, Konstantin Minin, Nikita Korotkov, Maksim Baranovskiy, Ilya Batrakov, Anastasia Baryshnikova and Olga Ivanova for their help in preparing the material.