BAKU, Azerbaijan (May 30, 2023) - The second day of the Baku 2023 World Taekwondo Championships saw next year’s Olympic Games hosts, France, claim two golds through Magda Wiet Henin in the women’s -67kg and Althéa Laurin in the women’s -73kg, while Korea’s Jun‐Seo Bae won the -58kg men’s gold.
Wiet Henin came into the World Championships on strong form having won two golds and a bronze medal at last year’s Grand Prix. However, she had fallen just short of medals at last year’s World Championships in Guadalajara and successfully put that right this time round. The silver went to number one seed Julyana Al‐Sadeq of Jordan and the bronze medals were won by two-time Olympic bronze medallist Ruth Gbagbi of Cote D’Ivoire and Norway’s Mari Romundset Nilsen.
Bae is no stranger to World Championships medals having won gold in 2019 in Manchester and bronze last year in Guadalajara. Here in Baku he was back to his 2019 best losing just one round on the way to gold. Individual Neutral Athlete (AIN) Georgii Gurtsiev won the silver and bronze medals were shared by Jordan’s Mahmoud Altaryreh and Spain’s Adrian Vicente Yunta.
Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Laurin made it a night to remember for the French team as she won the country’s second gold of the evening. Just like her compatriot Wiet Henin she had finished fifth in Guadalajara and just like Wiet Henin she turned that fifth to first here in Baku. Britain’s Rebecca McGowan also improved on her third place finish in Guadalajara to win silver here and the bronze medals went to Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Matea Jelic of Croatia and AIN Polina Khan.
The first final of the evening brought together the top two seeds Al‐Sadeq of Jordan and France’s Wiet Henin in the women’s -67kg. Wiet Henin was the first to put points on the board with two front kicks to take a 4-0 lead. Al‐Sadeq attempted a number of spinning kicks to the head but Wiet Henin’s quick footwork allowed her to evade danger and she landed another kick to the trunk. Al‐Sadeq rallied but it wasn’t enough to win the round which Wiet Henin took 6-3. Both fighters came out at a frenetic pace in the second round but neither was able to make their kicks count. With Wiet Henin headed for a 2-0 win, Al‐Sadeq landed a kick to the trunk followed quickly by a kick to the head to take a 5-2 lead. Wiet Henin drew the scores level with a head kick of her own forcing it into a final round. There was little to separate the fighters in the decisive round with Wiet Henin going 5-0 up only for Al‐Sadeq to land a spinning kick to the trunk to bring the scores within one point. Al‐Sadeq continued her attacking style but Wiet Henin defended well and won the round 6-4 to take gold.
In the semi finals, Al‐Sadeq beat Mari Romundset Nilsen 2-0 in the Norwegian’s first ever World Championships semi. Wiet Henin faced Gbagbi of Cote D’Ivoire in the other of the semi finals. The two fighters had been paired together at last year’s Roma 2022 Grand Prix, and the outcome was the same this time with Wiet Henin coming out on top.
In the men’s -58kg it was Bae versus Gurtsiev. Bae took an early lead landing two body kicks and a kick to the head with no response. At 8-2 down, Gurtsiev tried a number of spinning kicks to get back into the match but failed to keep his balance and was penalised with two Gam-jeoms. The round finished 10-2 to Bae. Another Gam-jeom at the start of the second round gave Bae a 1-0 lead which he added to with well timed kicks and punches to go 9-0 up. Gurtsiev landed a kick to the body but Bae was proving too strong and won the round 15-5 to secure gold.
Gurtsiev had overcome Jordan’s Altaryreh 2-0 in the semi-final following a closely fought second round which saw two video replay checks in the dying seconds. Bae faced number six seed of Spain Vicente Yunta in the second of the semi finals. Yunta came into the year in mixed form having won two bronze Grand Prix medals in 2022 but failing to reach the semi finals in the other two. Vicente Yunta fought well but Bae’s experience shone through and he won the match 2-0.
In the women’s -73kg final it was Olympic bronze versus World Championships bronze. McGowan took an early lead 2-0 but Laurin quickly responded with a head kick to go 3-2 up. A front kick to the trunk extended the Frenchwoman’s lead. In a frantic final 30 seconds the two fighters exchanged a barrage of kicks and punches but it was Laurin who ended the round the victor with a score of 16-10. McGowan signalled her intent in the first few seconds of the second round with a head kick but with 30 seconds gone the scores were tied again at 3-3. The Briton returned to the lead with a body kick only for Laurin to immediately respond to level the scoring. In the last 15 seconds, Laurin landed two kicks to the body to win 9-5 and take the gold.
McGowan faced Jelic of Croatia in the semi-final. McGowan raced ahead in the first round with Jelic making a late surge to pull her back but it was not enough. The second round followed a similar pattern and McGowan won 2-0. Laurin came up against AIN Khan in the last semi-final of the night. The Olympic bronze medallist proved too strong for Khan and won the match 2-0.
The World Championships continue tomorrow with the men’s -80kg and -87kg and women’s -49kg.