PARIS, France (Sept 3, 2023) - The final day of the Paris 2023 World Taekwondo Grand Prix delivered breath-taking matches and tense finishes with France and Cote D’Ivoire finishing on top of the podium.
Home favourite Althea Laurin won gold in the women +67kg giving the enthusiastic crowd what they had been hoping for over the last three days. It is Laurin’s first ever gold medal at a Grand Prix and adds to the World title she won in Baku earlier this year. In the men +80kg serial winner Cheick Sallah Cisse of Cote D’Ivoire added a sixth gold to his Grand Prix medal collection. It continued a successful year for Cisse in which he too won World Championship gold.
Laurin faced Great Britain’s Rebecca McGowan in the final of the women +67kg in what was one of the most entertaining fights of the Grand Prix. A punch and a back leg kick in the clinch gave McGowan an early 3-0 lead. Laurin landed a kick to the body to bring the scores to 3-2 but a punch extended the Brits lead once again. Another successful punch from McGowan gave her another point but Laurin landed a head kick round the back to bring the scores to 5-5. McGowan successfully landed another punch back leg combination. An exchange of body kicks from the two fighters brought the scores to 12-17 which McGowan was able to hold on to the end of the round.
Laurin was eager to come out fighting in the second round and a front leg head kick gave her the lead she was after. McGowan landed a kick to the head of her own on the way to the mat to bring the scores to 4-3 in the Laurin’s favour. The next 20 seconds bore witness to a flurry of high-quality head and body kicks from both fighters with the score settling at 9-9. Two kicks to the body restored Laurin’s lead 13-9. An exciting round finished 14-10 to the Frenchwoman.
The last round of an intense match saw Laurin take a 2-0 lead with a front kick to the body. Laurin defended against McGowan’s attacks well and caught her on the counter with a kick to the body. A head kick followed by two shots to the body without response saw Laurin take the gold 12-0 to the delight of the home crowd. It was a first silver medal for McGowan at the Grand Prix.
Laurin met Turkiye’s 2022 youth World Champion Sude Yaren Uzuncavdar in the semi final. In a battle of the current senior World Champion vs the former youth World Champion, Laurin’s experience shone through as she won the match 2-0. McGowan faced former World Champion and four-time Grand Prix gold medallist Dabin Lee of Korea in the semi final. It was set to be a fascinating contest but less than 30 seconds into the bout Lee was forced to retire handing the win to McGowan
In the men +80kg it was experience vs youth as 29 year old Cisse faced 20 year old Cunningham. Cisse came out more aggressively as Cunningham looked to absorb the shots and hit on the counter. A gam-jeom for both fighters brought the scores to 1-1. Both fighters tried to find the optimal distance to land a score but neither could break through. The round finished 1-1 and went to Cisse due to a higher number of registrations.
Cisse took the lead 15 seconds into the second round with a powerful punch to the torso. A gam-jeom and another punch gave Cisse a 3-0 lead. Cunningham landed a kick to the body on his way to the mat taking the score to 4-2 which was how it finished and Cisse won gold.
The first semi-final was a repeat of the semi-final from this year’s World Championships as Cisse fought Pasko Bozic of Croatia. Just like in Baku it was Cisse who came out on top, but Bozic forced him to the very limits as the Ivorian won by 1 point in a final and exhausting round. In doing so Bozic claimed his first ever bronze medal. Cunningham fought Mexico’s World Championships silver medallist Carlos Sansores in the second semi final. It was another energy-sapping three round fight with both fighters visible exhausted by the end. But it was Cunningham who advanced to the final winning 2-1.
The next World Taekwondo Grand Prix will take place in Taiyuan, China on 10-12 October 2023.