VERACRUZ, Mexico (Sep 21, 2023) - It was an emotional return of Para Poomsae athletes to the World Championships as they demonstrated incredible technique and movements at the World Trade Centre halls in Veracruz on Thursday.
It was the first time in four years that Para Poomsae competitions featured in the World Championships after the Pandemic, and they turned out to be special for the athletes, local organisations including World Taekwondo officials, Mexico Taekwondo Federation and the handful of crowds who roared to the skills of athletes.
In the end it was a grand success with each athlete going home as champions. They were surely ‘champions’ in their own way.
USA’s Justin Rankin and Senaoa Halelouich of Croatia were awarded the Best Male and Female athletes of the Para Poomsae competitions.
“I have been working very hard and waited very long time to win this medal. It is a special one. This means a lot to me, and I want to thank my coaches and everyone who supported throughout out this journey,” said Rankin who emerged the winner in male senior II A-class P53 division.
The 37-year-old, who waited to reach the World Championships for 30 years, also hoped to get to the Paralympics soon.
Para Poomsae – A way of life
Meanwhile, the 46-year-old Halelouich was overwhelmed to win her second World Championships title. For her, Para Poomsae has been her way of life for many years.
“During the Pandemic, she came to me everyday asking me to open the gymnasium. She was so persistent in training and returning to competitions. Her dedication and patience have been reasons for her success. She now wants to pass on her skills and technique to a younger athlete who can carry on her legacy,” said Halelouich’s coach and friend Danijel Bursac.
“I am very happy today. This is special one,” added Halelouich.
To the thrill of the local supporters, 17-year-old Gabriel Josafat Solano Castillo won his first World Championships gold in male senior / A-class P23 at the World Trade Centre halls as he burst into tears in front of the cheering crowd.
“It was very emotional to compete in front of a home crowd at this big stage. It was the most important moment in my career as my family was also here today. My next goal is to compete in the Paralympics, hopefully in Los Angeles 2028,” said Castillo who has been practicing Para Poomsae for the last 10 years.
Meanwhile for Peru’s Hervert Gabriel Alcalde Masias, it was a dream come true moment when he won the male senior/ A-class P34 event. “I want to keep working hard towards my Paralympic goals.”
Among other winners were: Great Britain's Bradley Brockies overcame local athlete Daniel Matamoros Gamboa, buoyed by a cheering crowd, in male senior / A-class P21.
Meanwhile, Mexican Juan A Plasencia Bustamante too had to be content with the second place losing to Croatia's Stipe Baric in male senior / A-class P22.
In the female section, USA's Kathryn Baxter shone with her technique and presentation in the female senior / A-class P21.
Meanwhile, Colombia's seasoned athlete Jhormary Rojas continued her good show in the World Championships to win the female senior II A-Class P21. "I am very happy to be here today. It's after four years that we play in such high-level competitions. I want to thank my mentors for always pushing me to reach my goals."
"I feel I am getting better, and I want to teach another person the skills and make the sport grow."
While athletes shared their intentions to be in the Paralympics soon, World Taekwondo secretary general Jeongkang Seo, who attended the competitions at Veracruz on the day, spoke highly of the sport potential to be at the Paralympic Games soon.
“After the success of Para Taekwondo Kyorugi in Tokyo 2020 Games, there was huge increase of medal events and athletes’ quota, and we are now more focused on Para Poomsae as well. Today we show a lot of potential from these athletes. A lot of touching stories and moments behind. We have a great future of Para Poomsae in the Paralympic programme with a solid system in place. And soon, we are very confident to see Para Poomsae in the Paralympic programme,” said Seo as he attended a spectacular opening ceremony in the evening.
A total of 71 athletes from 18 nations were in action in Para Poomsae competition while Kyorugi competitions began on 22 September.