BAKU, Azerbaijan (Jun 1, 2023) - Türkiye continued to make the Baku 2023 World Taekwondo Championships a tournament to remember on the fourth day as Nafia Kus won gold in the women’s +73kg and Hakan Recber claimed the top spot in the men’s -63kg.
Kus had won bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Manchester and had won the same prize at the World Championships in Chelyabinsk in 2015 but had never reached a final before. She put that right in Baku not just making the final but winning the world title. Silver was won by Uzbekistan’s Svetlana Osipova and the bronze medals were won by three-time World Champion Bianca Cook (formerly Walkden) and Individual Neutral Athlete (AIN) Kristina Adebaio.
At 23 years old, Recber was a relative veteran in his weight category and made all his experience count. While he has won Olympic bronze at Tokyo 2020 he has not had as much success in World Championships. But at Baku he made it fourth time lucky with commanding and controlled performances from start to finish. The silver medal was won by 17-year-old newcomer Banlung Tubtimdang of Thailand and the bronze medals were shared by former Pan American Champion Carlos Navarro of Mexico and Guadalajara 2022 World Championships bronze medallist Joan Jorquera Cala of Spain.
In the final of the women’s +73kg a cagey start saw both Kus and Osipova try to take control of the centre of the mat. Neither fighter was willing to take too many risks with the score remaining 0-0 for much of the round. In the last few seconds Kus was able to land more registrations to win the round. The second round followed a similar pattern with both fighters trying to find the distance with the front kick. A head kick from Kus at the halfway mark broke the deadlock. The fight came to life in the final 20 seconds as two Gam-jeoms and a body shot from Osipova gave her a 4-3 lead. The scores were drawn equal at 6-6 but Osipova pulled away with a head kick and body shot in quick succession. The Uzbek won the round 11-6. A front leg head kick from Kus gave her a 3-0 lead at the start of the final round. Gam-jeoms from both players reduced Kus’ lead but she extended it again with a head kick. With the score at 7-4 and a few seconds remaining Kus found herself one Gam-jeom away from disqualification but kept her composure to win the gold.
Osipova met Cook in the first semi-final as Cook was in the hunt for a record fourth world title. There was very little to choose between the two fighters in the first round with Osipova taking it courtesy of registering more shots in a 3-3 finish. Cook held the lead for much of the second round but Osipova landed a head kick in the dying seconds to win the round 4-3 and win the match. Kus faced Adebaio in the second of the semi-finals. Kus put in a commanding first round performance winning 5-0. Adebaio returned in kind with a strong round to win 12-5. In the final round Kus took an early lead which she conserved throughout to win 6-1.
In the men’s -63kg it was experience versus youth with Recber and Tubtimdang going head-to-head. An early Gam-jeom followed by a power punch from Recber gave the Turk a 2-0 lead. With 15 seconds left Recber showed his experience landing a kick to the body from the clinch and a head shot over the shoulder to win the round 7-0. Tubtimdang turned up the intensity in the second round trying to use his 16cm height advantage. A kick to the body from Tubtimdang saw the score at 3-1. A punch from Recber brought the score within one. A Gam-jeom from Recber extended the lead in Tubtimdang’s favour again, but Recber returned with a kick to the body. Gam-jeoms from both fighters saw Tubtimdang even the tie with a 6-5 round win. In the third round, a push kick from Tubtimdang saw Recber fall to the mat and receive a Gam-jeom. A third successful punch from Recber evened the scores. With five seconds left it was 2-1 to Recber but two body shots gave him some breathing space and he won the round 6-2.
Recber met Navarro in the first semi-final. Recber came out quickly and took control of the first round winning 10-5. In the second round Navarro brought the scores within one point but a flurry of kicks in the final seconds saw the Turk walk away with a place in the final courtesy of an 11-9 round win. Third ranked seed Jorquera Cala and Tubtimdang matched up in the other of the semi-finals. Despite his relative inexperience, Tubtimdang performed calmly to win the round 9-3. Jorquera Cala fought back in the second round and the scores were tied with 30 seconds remaining, but the tall Thai stepped it up to win the round 9-7.