South Korea’s dominance at taekwondo’s World Championships shows no sign of weakening after day one of the 2019 edition at the Manchester Arena.
In each of the three weight divisions the Koreans provided a fighter for tomorrow night’s finals: Jae-young Sim (-46kg), Jun Jang (-58kg) and Da-bin Lee (-73kg)
In three of the last four world championships, including two on home soil, the nation, who gave taekwondo to the world, has amassed a final 10-medal total.
Iran’s Mahla Momemzadeh, Hernandez Plaza of Mexico and Plaza’s compatriot, Maria Espinoza, will oppose Sim, Jang and Lee respectively.
Sim started the -46kg weight category as the player the rest had to beat. She’s now just one victory away from retaining the title won two years ago in Muju.
Sim’s last four clash with Thailand’s Julanan Khantikulanon was beset with technical difficulties and she also had to contend with falling 5-4 down at the stat of the second round.
But the Asian star’s class shone through in the end. A runner-up at last year’s Grand Prix held at Manchester’s Regional Athletics Arena, Sim will now hope to go one better.
However, it was Momemzadeh who had the distinction of becoming the first athlete to book a place in a 2019 world final.
The Iranian youngster announced herself in the competition by defeating Great Britain’s junior world champion, Jordyn Smith, in the last 32.
She continued her good form culminating in a 11-9 semi-final success over China’s Xueqin Tan, a winner of four tournaments in 2019, including the President’s Cup event at Kish Island.
Lee’s bid for gold at her first World Championship remains on course for a successful debut.
But she won’ have it easy in the final against veteran Mexican canny Espinoza, a bronze medallist two years ago.
The relatively early exit of defending gold medallist and former Olympic champion, Milica Mandic, raised the stakes for the rest.
And Espinoza took her chance beating Nafia “The Amazon” Kus of Turkey 6-4.
Teenager Jang gave Korea its second finalist for Thursday’s night action with a 14-3, last four victory over Argentina’s Lucas Guzman.
Jang is only 19-years-old but has been competing at the elite level and won the Fujairah Grand Prix Final in 2018.
In the opening semi-final Mexican Plaza Hernandez , a President’s Cup winner in Las Vegas las year and a three-time champion across central America and the Caribbean in 2019, left it late to beat Rui Braganca.
But a head shot in the closing moments completed a 16-13 win over his Portuguese rival.
Today’s results in full: