As the curtains came down on the just concluded World Taekwondo Championships, which was held in Manchester UK between 14 and 19 May, Africa found itself left out of the podium experience, as no athlete from Africa managed to win a medal in the world event dominated by Asia and Europe.
Korea were overall winners with four gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals, followed by host Great Britain with three gold medals and one bronze. Republic of China came in third position with two gold, two silver and three bronze while Thailand came was in fourth position with two gold medals and one bronze medal.
The last time that the African continent failed to win a single medal was 24 years ago at the 12th edition of the World Taekwondo Championships, which was held in Chicago USA in 1995.
In fact, in the 25 editions of the World Taekwondo Championships held, the only other time that Africa did not reflect on the medal table was at the premier edition in Seoul South Korea in 1973.
History of African Medallists in the past six World Taekwondo Championships
At the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 23rd edition of the World Championship series held in Muju South Korea, there were two male African medallists and one female African medallist.
For the male category, Niger Republic’s Issoufou Abdulrazak won the Gold medal in the male +87kg heavyweight division while Gabon’s Anthony Obame came away with the bronze in the same weight category. In the female divisions, Cote D’Ivoire’s Ruth Gbagi picked up the gold in the female -62kg light weight division.
At the 2015 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 22nd edition, and held in Chelyabinsk Russia, there were three male African medallists.
Cote D’Ivoire’s Firmin Zokou picked up a Silver in the male +87kg heavyweight category while Anthony Obame picked up the bronze in the same category. Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly picked up a bronze in the male -74kg lightweight category.
At the 2013 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 21st edition and held in Puebla, Mexico, there were four male African medallists and one female African medallist.
In the male categories, Gabon’s Anthony Obame won the gold in the Male +87kg heavyweight division; Egypt’s Hussein Sherif picked up a bronze medal in the male -54kg fin weight division; Senegal’s Balla Dieye won a bronze in the male -68kg featherweight division; and Tunisia’s Saifeddine Trabelsi won a bronze in the male -74kg lightweight division.
In the female categories, Tunisia’s Fadia Farhani picked up a bronze in the female -46kg fin weight division.
At the 2011 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 20th edition and held in Gyeonju South Korea, there were two male African medallists and two female African medallists.
In the male categories, Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly picked up a bronze in the male -74kg lightweight category while Morocco’s Issam Chernoubi picked up a bronze in the male -80kg welterweight category.
In the female categories, Morocco’s Lamyaa Bekkali won the silver in the female -53kg category, while her compatriot, Sanaa Atabrour, picked up a bronze in the female -49kg category.
At the 2009 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 19th edition and held in Copenhagen Denmark, there were two male African medallists.
In the male categories, Mali’s Daba Modibo Keïta picked up the gold in the male +87kg heavyweight division while Senegal’s Balla Dieye won a bronze in the male -68kg featherweight division.
At the 2007 World Taekwondo Championships, which was the 18th edition and held in Beijing China, there were three male African medallists.
In the male categories, Egypt’s Tamer Bayoumi picked up a bronze in the male -58kg fly weight division; while Mali’s Daba Modibo Keïta picked up the gold in the male +87kg heavyweight division while Morocco’s Abdelkader Zrouri picked up the bronze medal in the same division.
Detailed Results of African Players at the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships
The 2019 edition of the world championships was unkind to Africa whose top taekwondo stars and upcoming talents athletes failed to deliver medals for the continent during the event.
In the male -80kg category, one of Africa’s top picks for medalling at the World championships, Sallah Cisse of Cote D’Ivoire who is the defending Olympic Champion and African Champion, lost in the round of 32 after illegally punching his opponent, Chinese Taipei’s Wei Ting Liu, in the throat.
His opponent’s inability to continue left the centre referee with no option but to disqualify Africa’s surest medal, despite his 12 – 7 lead at the time. The charismatic Olympian had earlier defeated Brazil’s Joao Pedros 12 – 7 in the Round of 32.
Other Africans in the category did not fare any better.
Burundi’s Faysal Sawadogo lost 10 – 13 to Brazil’s Joao Pedros in the round of 64. Niger Republic’s Hama Alzaima lost to USA’s Jaysen Ishida 10 – 22 in the round of 64.
Morocco’s Achraf Mahboubi defeated Serbia’s Ivan Karajlovic 12 – 10 in the round of 64 before losing to Spain’s Raul Martineze 22 – 26. Mali’s Ababacar Sadikh did not even make it to the mat as he was disqualified during the weigh-in.
In the female -67kg category, defending World and African Champion, Ruth Gbagi painfully lost at the quarterfinals to Azerbaijan’s Farida Azizora 6 – 8 after two last rapid round house kicks to the trunk. The Ivorian had earlier defeated Melissa Pagnotta of Canada 19 – 6 in the round of 16 and Norway’s Randi Dyngeland 25 – 5 in the round of 32.
In other matches in the same category, Morocco’s Wafae El Atri was defeated 6 – 12 by Chinese Taipei’s Kuan-Yu Chuang; Egypt’s Rewan Refaei was beaten 0 – 20 by Korea’s Jan-di Kim in the round of 32 after defeating Peru’s Diana Chirinos 21 – 4 in the round of 64. Senegal’s Warkha Ngom was disqualified after failing the weigh-in.
In the male +87kg category, the 2013 World Champion Anthony Obame of Gabon, who was another of the continent’s brightest chances was narrowly edged out 12 – 13 in the round of 16 by event Bronze medallist, Jordan’s Hamza Kattan after defeating Serbia’s Danilo Vukelic 9 – 1 in the round of 32.
The Jordanian that conquered Gabon’s taekwondo crown jewel had earlier knocked out Egypt’s Mohammed Ayman 2 – 9 in the round of 32.
Morocco’s Ayoub Bassel lost 5 – 12 to eventual Bronze medallist, Maicon of Brazil in the round of 32; Mozambique’s Itai Samuel Sango was defeated 3 – 24 by Chinese Taipei’s Guan-Ting Lin.
In a big blow, defending champion in the heavyweight +87kg category, Abdoul Issoufou of Niger Republic withdrew from the tournament, suspected to be because of a chronic injury. He was to battle Andreas Stylianou of Cyprus in the round of 32.
In the male -54kg category, Africa was in for a big blow when the world ranked number one, Senegal’s Moustapha Kama, was unceremoniously dumped out of the world championships by Austria’s 13 – 17 in his opening round of 32, thus ensuring no medal for the world number one and a guaranteed drop in his number one ranked position once the ranking is updated after the world championships.
Egypt’s Muaz Nabil lost 4 – 26 in the round of 16 to Great Britain’s Mason Yarrow, after earlier destroying Kuwait’s Ali Almershad 50 – 16 in the round of 32 and Hong Kong’s You Pan Wang 16 – 1 in the round of 64.
In the round of 64, Botswana’s Kitso Molaodi lost 11 – 24 to Khazakstan’s Samat Temirkhan; Djibouti’s Radwan Houssein Hassan lost 7 – 27 to Greece’s Dionysios Rapsomanikis; Rwanda’s Benuit Kayitarie was defeated 17 – 22 by Saudi Arabia’s Abdulelah Asiri; Mozambique’s Muianga bowed out 9 – 32 to Turkey’s Denize Dagdelen and Niger Republic’s Mahamodou Amadou was beaten 12 – 27 by Ecuador’s Adrian Miranda.
In the male -58kg category, Egypt’s Mohammed Farag was beaten in the quarterfinals by Greece’s Eleftherios Fakinos. En route to his loss, the spirited Egyptian had defeated Thailand’s Tawin Hanprab 10 – 9 in round of 16, Philippines’ Dex Chavez 34 – 14 in round of 32 and Israel’s Bar Reuben 33 – 14 in round of 64.
Tunisia’s Neffati Hedi also made it to the quarterfinals before narrowing losing to Argentina’s Lucas Guzman 10 – 11. En route to the defeat, the Tunisian had beaten Ireland’s highly rated Jack Wolley 24 – 14 in the round of 16, Chinese Taipei’s Hao-Yu Hsu 17 – 15 in the round of 32 and Hong Kong’s Chung Han Ko in the round of 64.
Lesotho’s Marumo Moloisane crashed out 5 – 25 to USA’s Damian Villa in the round of 64. While Mozambique’s Frederico Muianga was eliminated 8 – 29 by Liam Better of French Guiana.
Morocco’s Omar Lakehal defeated fellow African, Jean Paul Sekanyamba of Rwanda 7 – 37 in the round of 64. The Moroccan went on to defeat Mozambique’s conqueror, French Guiana’s Liam Better 27 – 1, in the round of 32 before losing to Korea’s Jun Jang 17 – 21 in the round of 16.
In the male -63kg, Lesotho’s Ramosoeu Nkuebe was beaten 5 – 25 by Thailand’s Nareupong Thepsa in the round of 128 while Swaziland’s Thandukuklaga Dlamini fell to eventual Bronze medallist, Germany’s Iordaris Konstantinidis 9 -19.
Senegal’s Mohammed Diao was narrowly edged out 2 – 3 by Emir Kaljanac of Bosnia and Herzegovina while Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Hsin Ho saw off Morocco’s Abdelbasset Wasfi 14 – 19 in the round of 128.
Cape Verde’s Nicolas Fernandes was defeated 5 – 22 by Hong Kong’s Ho Sum Yuen in the round of 128.
Egypt’s Nasser Ahmed spearheaded an emphatic 28 – 15 victory over India’s Saurav in the round of 128before losing 8 – 24 to Azerbaijan’s Javad Aghayev in the round of 64.
In the male -68kg category, it was an all African affair when Egypt’s Wael Abdelrahman dismissed Rwanda’s Vincent Munyakazi 23 – 2 in the round of 128 before repeating the same with Niger Republic’s Ismael Yacouba 22 – 20 in the round of 64, before losing to Korea’s class act Dae Hoon Lee 5 – 13 in the round of 32.
Niger Republic’s Ismael Yacouba had earlier defeated Portugal’s Renato Pereira 14 – 11 in the round of 128.
Morocco’s Faizal Saidi defeated Costa Rica’s Juan Jose Soto 23 – 18 in the round of 124 before bowing out to Poland’s Karol Robak 9 – 10 in the round of 64.
In other round 128 line-ups, Somalia’s Abdullahi Fuad lost out to Nepal’s Bahadur Mahara 0 – 24 while Jehudiel Kiki of Benin Republic was dumped out 6 – 7 by Uruguay’s Federico Gonzalez.
In the male -74kg category, Morocco’s Soufiane Elasbi beat World Taekwondo Refugee team member, Kasra Mehdipournejad 21 – 19 in the round of 64 before narrowly losing 17 – 18 to Serbia’s Damir Fejzic in the round of 32.
Tunisia’s Firas Katousi cancelled out fellow African, Egypt’s Seif Eissa 8 – 9 in the round of 64 before bowing out to France’s Jermami Mehdi in the round of 32, who had earlier defeated David Boui of Central Africa Republic 26 – 16 in the round of 64.
In the male -87kg category, Morocco’s Hamza Bibsi defeated Lebanon’s Ray Rahy 27 – 10 in the round of 64 before losing to Germany’s Alexander Bachman 5 – 25 in the round of 32.
In the female -46kg category, Morocco’s Soukaina Sahib beat Peru’s Katherine Calderon 15 – 1 in the opening round of 32, went on to beat Chinese Taipei’s Yu Ting Hung 18 – 14 the round of 16 before narrowly succumbing 19 – 22 to Thailand’s Julannan Khantikulanan in the quarterfinals. The Thai fighter, who went on to clinch a Bronze medal, had earlier defeated Mozambique’s Celia Trusao 48 – 6 in the round of 64.
Lesotho’s Michelle Tau lost to Spain’s Sara Carteguso Lima 13 – 19 in the opening round of 64.
In the female -49kg category, Tunisia’s Ikram Dhahri lost 4 – 10 in the quarterfinals to Croatia’s Kristina Tomic. En route to her loss, she had defeated Egypt’s Nour Abselam 3 – 2 in the round of 16, Czech Republic’s Dominka Hronova 9 – 7 in the round of 32 and Denmark’s Shantelle Mendoza 23 – 2 in the round of 64.
Egypt’s Nour Abdelsalam had earlier defeated Ukraine’s Olekasandra Danshina 16 – 15 in the round of 32 before losing to the Tunisian.
Morocco’s Ouhadi Rahab beat Greece’s Apostolia Tsantoukla 13 – 7 in the round of 64 before losing to Miyu Yamada of Japan 11 – 18 in the round of 32. Meanwhile, Cote D’Ivoire’s Bouma Coulibaly thrashed Portugal’s Ana Coelho 28 – 7 in the round of 64 being dumped out 22 – 42 by Mexico’s Daniela Paola Souza in the round of 32.
In the female -53kg, Africa’s currently number one ranked player, Morocco’s Oumaima El Bouchti, oversaw a convincing 23 – 2 win over Japan’s Mahiro Egudi in the round of 64, defeated Kazakhstan’s Fariza Aldangorova 24 – 18 in the round of 32 before losing to Germany’s Madeline Folgmann 16 – 22 in the round of 16.
Christianna Tyrologou of Greece defeated Nigeria’s Chinazum Nwosu in the Round of 32, who had earlier beaten Thi Dung Vu of Vietnam 12 – 7 in the round of 64.
Tunisia’s Ben Ali won Pakistan’s Aneila Aysha 32 – 10 in the round of 32 before succumbing to Sweden’s Rim Bayaa 7 – 21.
Somalia’s Munirah Abdiwahid lost to 2 – 22 Columbia’s Laura Garcia.
In the female -57kg, Morocco’s Nada Loaraj defeated Kazakhstan’s Butakoz Kapanova 20 – 0 in the round of 64, Egypt’s Radwa Abdelkader 0 – 1 in the round of 32 before losing to Russia’s Elena Evlanpyewa 4 – 24 in the round of 16.
The Russian had earlier defeated Niger Republic’s Tekiath Ben Yessouf 15 – 14, while the Egyptian had earlier defeated Bulgaria’s Emilia Taseva 2 – 5 in the round of 64.
Senegal’s medal hopeful, Bineta Diedhiou fell to Uzbekistan’s Zariya Kosimova 4 – 17.
In the female -62kg, Tunisia’s Ameni Layouni lost 1 – 9 to Turkey’s Irem Yaman in the round of 32 after defeating Kazakhstan’s Fatima Zhaksybayeva 13 – 1 in the round of 64.
Egypt’s Hedaya Malak was beaten by France’s Magda Henin 6 – 15 in the round of 16 after overcoming Greece’s Ioanna-Stavroula Desylla 6 – 4 in the round of 32.
Gabon’s Urgence Mouega narrowly lost 12 – 13 to Chinese Taipei’s Li Chien Chang in the round of 64 while Morocco’s Safia Salih was beaten by Germany’s Anna-lena Froemming 3 – 8 in the same round.
In the female -73kg category, Astan Katherine Bahily of Cote D’Ivoire was the sole African competitor and she lost 1 – 6 in the opening round of 32 to Spain’s Ceclia Castro.
In the female +73kg category, Morocco’s Wilam Dislam crashed out 4 – 13 to USA’s Hannah Keck in the round of 32 while Cote D’iVoire’s Aminata Traore was defeated 5 – 13 by Austria’s Reba Stewart in the round of 32.
Responding to the podium-less results posted by the African continent, Technical Director of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation and World Taekwondo Global Educator, Chika Chukwumerije, blamed the spending power and knowledge gap between Africa and the rest of the world.
“There is a huge financial spending gap between Africa and the rest of the World in the sport of Taekwondo. This foundational difference extends to tactical and technical knowledge between teams in Africa and other parts of the world, not to talk about the wide gap in available infrastructure. One in a while, flashes of brilliance emerge from the African continent. However, despite the obvious amount of talent on the continent, the lack of real sustainable development in knowledge acquisition, technology, infrastructure and people ensures the continent will lag behind the world.”
The three-time Olympian, who won a Bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, points to good leadership and collaboration as the way forward.
“Africa must rise and help itself and shed its current mindset that it is not good enough. We are good enough – good enough to build our infrastructure, manufacture our own equipment, develop our people, research, document and apply knowledge, develop our own technology. Our starting point might be crude, but every developed nation was once crude. For this to happen, visionary leadership, will power and keen collaboration across the continent is required.”
For the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Italy and Cuba all won gold medals. Other countries that won medals include Mexico, Spain, Iran, Jordan, Croatia, Brazil, Canada, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, Greece, Argentina, Latvia, Dominica Republic, Germany, Kazakhstan, Portugal and France.
A record 927 athletes from 145 countries plus 1 refugee team registered to compete at this year’s Championships making it the largest by numbers in the sport’s history.