Searing action is the name of the game in central China
TAIYUAN, China (Oct. 11, 2023) – When the smoke had cleared at Taiyuan’s Shanxi Sports Center on Wednesday, fighters from Korea, Serbia and Tunisia had struck gold.
The latter was the second gold of the Grand Prix for the North African nation.
As the Tokyo 2020 generation passes, Day 2 at the Grand Prix saw rising stars stake out their positions. It also saw two intense and interesting matches that pitted tall against short – with very different outcomes.
The final pitted Souleyman Alaphilippe of France against Korea’s Ho-jun Jin. Jin was fresh form his bronze medal at the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games; his trophy cabinet also holds gold from the Manchester 2022 GP and silver from the Baku 2022 Worlds. Alaphilippe is a dark horse, having yet to impact elite-level competition.
Combat commenced with both men going for the body. Jin drew ahead with accurate, consistent kicks to take Round 1.
In the second, the Frenchman adopted more flamboyant technique and briefly won a lead, but the Korean regained it and won the round – and the gold – with a cool-headed defensive performance in the final seconds. Still, good play by Alanphilippe - clearly a face to watch.
Ulugbek Rashitov of Uzbekistan and Javier Perez Polo of Spain took home the bronzes.
Serbia’s Aleksandra Perisic, who won silver at the 2022 Guadalajara Worlds and at the 2022 Manchester GP, faced off against Belgium’s Sarah Chaari. Chaari holds silver from the 2023 Roma GP and golds from the 2023 European Games and 2022 Guadalajara Worlds.
Chaari had a major height advantage, but Perisic had already dispatched a taller player in the semis. Perisic took Round 1 via smart distancing and close play that frustrated Chaari, who failed to score.
In the second, Chaari sought to reassert herself and fight forward, but the Serb took the lead, landing with power and threatening to the head. Things got close and rough as Chaari equalized in the last seconds but Perisic took the round – and the gold – on superiority.
Bronze medals went to Elizabeth Oluchi Anyanacho of Nigeria and Julyana Al-Sadeq of Jordan.
Rising star Firas Katousi of Tunisia, bronze medalist at the 2022 Guadalajara Worlds, took on Geon-woo Seo of Korea. Seo is a new Grand Prix threat, having won bronze at Roma 2023, silver at Riyadh 2022 and gold at Manchester 2022.
Katousi towered over the Korean, but Seo showcased varied technique and offensive play. Katousi was less active, more accurate, taking Round 1.
In the second, the Tunisian moved ahead and Seo equalized, then jumped ahead on the board - a process that repeated as the round proceeded. Seo scraped a tight win.
In Round 3, Seo opened the board with a punch and kept Katousi on the back foot. Fireworks were unleashed when Seo ducked one crescent kick to the head – only to be hit with the other foot, and then another. Katousi had finally found his head-kick range, going 6-1 up, then 9-3. The last 20 seconds were a blur of flying feet, but Katousi held Seo off for a 16-10 victory.
Jasurbek Jaysunov of Uzbekistan and CJ Nickolas of USA - who had earlier delighted the crowd with his spectacular play in the semis - won bronzes.
Tomorrow, Taiyuan’s final day, sees the W+67kg and M+80kg contested.