More than six months after Guadalajara, Mexico, last November, taekwondo stars from around the world will gather in Baku, Azerbaijan, to compete for the title of “World Champion”.
The 2023 World Taekwondo Championships, organized by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, for a week from Nov. 29 (local time) to Nov. 4.
Crushed under the tyranny of the Russian Empire, which fell in the February 1917 Revolution, Azerbaijan gained independence as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic on May 28, 1918. Starting with the Gala Awards, which will commemorate Azerbaijan’s Independence Day and the 50th anniversary of the WTF, athletes from around the world will compete in earnest on the 29th after completing preliminary events such as weigh-ins.
The World Taekwondo Championships were originally held every two years, but due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the event was only able to continue in Guadalajara, Mexico, last November, three years after the 2019 edition in Manchester, England. More than 950 athletes from 143 countries will compete in Baku in just over six months.
Of particular note will be 14 Russian and nine Belarusian athletes competing as individual neutrals after being banned from international competition following the invasion of Ukraine. In accordance with a WTF Executive Board decision made earlier this month, athletes will only be allowed to compete if they have passed a three-stage verification process by the Eligibility Review Commission and have signed a local pledge to comply with the conditions of participation. Athletes with ties to their country’s military or intelligence services, or who have declared support for war against Ukraine, will not be allowed to compete.
In addition to the Russian and Belarusian athletes, 13 refugee teams will be represented at the Games. Among them is Yaha Algotani, who will be competing on the world stage for the first time from Azraq, a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.
Unlike the Olympic Games, which are divided into eight weight classes, four for men and four for women, the World Championships will be held in 16 weight classes, eight for men and eight for women. Korea, the dominant taekwondo nation, will be represented in the men’s competition by Park Tae-joon (Kyung Hee University) at 54 kg, Bae Joon-seo (Ganghwa County Office) at 58 kg, Kim Tae-yong (Daejeon Metropolitan City Hall) at 63 kg, Jin Ho-joon (Suwon City Hall)메이저놀이터 at 68 kg, Kang Jae-kwon at 74 kg, Park Woo-hyuk at 80 kg, Kang Sang-hyun at 87 kg, and Bae Yoon-min at super 87 kg (Korea Gas Corporation).
On the women’s side, Kang Mir (46kg), Kang Bora (49kg), Lee In-wan (53kg), Lee Hannah (57kg), Nam Min-seo (62kg), Hong Hyo-rim (67kg), Lee Da-bin (73kg), and Song Da-bin (73kg) will compete under the Taeguk mark.
Kang Bora and Kang Mir, who became the first sisters in Korean taekwondo history to compete together at the World Championships at the last edition, will be competing side by side. Last November in Guadalajara, they lost in the quarterfinals and will be looking to go one better this time around.
Park Woo-hyuk, who won the men’s 80kg (welterweight) gold medal 23 years after Jang Jong-oh in Edmonton, Canada, in 1999, is aiming to end a two-game losing streak.
Korean women’s taekwondo sensation Lee Da-bin, who will be competing in her third consecutive World Championships, will also be looking to avenge her last Games, where she missed out on gold due to injury. Lee won gold in the women’s 73-kilogram category at the 2019 Manchester Games in England, and last year, she battled through a broken finger to win silver.
In addition to the competition, there will also be a challenge from retired taekwondo star Lee Dae-hoon. Elections for the WTF Athletes’ Commission will be held simultaneously locally from the 28th to the 3rd of next month. A total of six athletes will be elected for a four-year term. Competing athletes will vote for male and female candidates, with Lee running in the men’s category.
Lee traveled to Azerbaijan with the team as the national team coach and will be guiding the athletes on the field. The competition will be streamed live on the WT website and YouTube channel.