Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden and Russia’s Maksim Khramtcov captured gold medals with USD70,000 each in the inaugural edition of the World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series, held at the Wuxi Taihu International Expo Center in the city of Wuxi on December 30.
Silvers (and USD20,000 each) were won by Team USA’s Jackie Galloway and Team Korea’s Nam-goong Hwan, while bronzes (and USD5,000 each) went to Turkey’s Nafia Kusand and Azerbaijan’s Milad Beigi in the women’s +67kg and the men’s -80kg categories.
|In the female +67kg category final, Great Britain’s Bianca “Queen Bee” Walkden(right).|
In the preliminaries, Rio 2016 Olympic champions Shuyin Zheng of China and Cheick Cisse of Cote d’Ivoire both lost their first bouts.
However, Walkden capped her extraordinary 2017 season – four consecutive Grand Prix victories, in addition to the successful defense of her World Championship title – with a scorching win over Galloway.
The male division featured a historic first for taekwondo. The final and bronze medal matches were both fought over five two-minute rounds, rather than the usual three rounds.
And a new Korean star was born. Team Korea’s virtual unknown Nam-goong Hwan, the smallest fighter in his division, stormed through the competition, only losing in the final against Khramtcov.
In the Grand Slam, an event covered 39 online platforms, athletes fought on a custom-designed “stage for superstars” with thunderous audio, dancers jiving between matches, and ring girls announcing the rounds.
The final of the women’s category pitted Galloway against Walkden. From the opening buzzer, Walkden was on fire. She scored two, then four then eight points with her sniper-like side kick.
As the action continued, Galloway tried high kicks, just could not get past Walkden’s stabbing side kick. The British girl’s distancing and timing were perfect. The unbeatable fighter, Walkden won clearly, 10-2.
In a victory celebration, Walkden’s long-time boyfriend, Aaron Cook, came to the mats and hefted Walkden aloft. The “Queen Bee” hurled her shin protectors into the crowd and ended the affair with a series of somersaults on the mats.
In the female bronze match, Poland’s Aleksandra Kowalczuk took on Kus of Turkey. The Turkish perfectly ended the match, winning a convincing 11-3 victory.
|In the male -80kg category final, Russia’s Maksim Khramtcov(left).|
In the final of the men’s category, Korea’s 19-year-old Nam-goong took on Russia’s Khramtcov.
The Russian towered over Nam-goong by at least a head. He went up with a high kick, 3-0, then sent the Korean flying with a body kick, before landing another head kick from the clinch; the first ended 11-4 to the Russian.
In the second, the Korean went after his man, mixing combination attacks to the body with kicks to the head. But the Russian’s high roundhouse and crescent kicks kept landing. The second ended 23-9 to Khramtcov.
In the third, Nam-goong continued to take the fight to his opponent, trying to break into close range where he had the advantage. But the Russian kept landing to the head and the third closed 32-19 to Khramtcov.
Both fighters looked tired and the pace slowed, but the Korean deployed some effective body kicks under and around the Russian’s high-line attacks, ending the fourth, 34-22 to the Russian.
In the final round, the Korean landed a head kick from the clinch then repeated the technique, raising his score to 29. In the final seconds, Nam-goong – bleeding from a facial injury and panting heavily– finally gassed out. It was a superb win for the Russian, 35-29, but also a surprise performance from Nam-goong.
In the male bronze match, Russia’s Anton Kotkov went into battle against Milad Beigi of Azerbaijan. The match ended 17-7. A relaxed and highly professional performance by Beigi.
The second edition of the Grand Slam series takes place next Saturday, Jan. 6, in Wuxi with the men’s –68kg and the women’s -67kg categories being contested.
Hye Jin Choi firstname.lastname@example.org
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