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Kang Sang-hyun wins gold at World Taekwondo Championships

Kang Sang-hyun wins gold at World Taekwondo Championships

Posted June. 02, 2023 08:00,   

Updated June. 02, 2023 08:00


Kang Sang-hyun, a 21-year-old athlete, won a gold medal in his debut at the World Taekwondo Championship.

Kang claimed the championship title in the man’s 87kg division at the 2023 World Taekwondo Championship held at the Crystal Hall in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 1, defeating Ivan Sapina of Croatia in the final with a round score of 2-0. It has been 18 years since South Korea won a gold medal in this weight class since Oh Seon-taek’s victory at the 2005 Madrid Championship. With Kang’s gold medal and Baek Jun-seo’s gold medal in the man’s 58kg division, South Korea has secured its second gold medal at this year’s World Championship.

Kang yielded a point from the hand attack just 12 seconds into the first round. However, he took the round with a score of 6-5 by successfully executing two body attacks. In the second round, he gave away three points to the opponent’s head attack in just 16 seconds, finding himself trailing with a score of 1-6. Yet, with a mere 48 seconds left on the clock until the end of the match, Kang made a stunning comeback in the round by successfully landing a barrage of four consecutive body attacks, ultimately flipping the score to a triumphant 9-7. As the final buzzer sounded, Kang expressed joy by throwing his mouthguard into the air.

Born in Jeju, Kang entered the Korea National Sports University and wore the Taeguk mark uniform in the national team tryouts in February this year, marking the first Jeju-born athlete to be chosen as a taekwondo national team member in 21 years since 2002. Following his victory in the Canada Open in February, his first international competition, Kang attained a gold medal at the U.S. Open World Taekwondo Championship in March.

“I dreamed of becoming a national team athlete earlier this year, and after becoming one, I dreamed of winning the World Championships,” he said. “Now, my goal is to do my best in the Paris Olympics next year.”

Asked about a reason for his excellent performance in competition against world-class athletes despite having limited experience in international competitions, Kang said that domestic tournaments are tougher and more challenging. “I thought I could perform well in the world championships because I secured first place in domestic competitions, which I think are much more challenging than international ones,” said Kang.

Bae-Jung Kim wanted@donga.com