Field for Paris 2024 shapes up in penultimate GP of 2023
TAIYUAN, China (Oct. 12, 2023) – On the third and final day of the Taiyuan Grand Prix, China and AIN emerged with the last two golds of the competition.
With Paris 2024 just around the corner, and precious ranking points on the table at the Shanxi Sports Center, the previous two days’ finals had delivered intense matches.
Tonight continued the tradition with two banging bouts.
The category final saw Sude Yaren Uzuncavdar of Turkiye fighting Lei Xu of China.
The Turk – one of the fiercest fighters in the women’s game - is a phenom. She won gold at the Junior World Championships in Sofia in 2002, transitioned to the seniors, and won the Riyadh Grand Prix the same year.
Xu is a relative newcomer, with one GP gold under her belt, from Roma 2023, but has a major height advantage over Uzuncavdar. So: A bout between height and fury.
Round 1 started slowly, but as the crowd got behind Xu, she landed first, 2-0. The Turk put the pressure on, forcing Xu backwards. But she failed to land her head kick and lost a stream of points as Xu fired conservative, but accurate, strikes to the trunk to take the round.
In Round 2 the Turk went all in, attacking forward and grabbing an early lead by forcing Xu off-mats. Xu returned fire, hitting the head. Battle continued with forward pressure from the Turk and Xu fighting brilliantly off the back foot - winning gold with a second-round victory.
Da-bin Lee of Korea and Lorena Brandl of Germany went home with bronzes.
The final pitted AIN Vladislav Larin against two-time World Champion Nikita Rafalovich of Uzbekistan.
Round 1 started slow, with both players faking and trying to find the range, but the AIN took an early lead. That was swiftly equalized by Rafalovich, who won the round on superiority.
In the second, Larin scored two points to the trunk - enough to clinch Round 2.
Round 3 saw Larin land a back kick that forced Rafalovich out, and down. His score rose to 9-1 after an intense edge-of-mats clinch. Furious technique flew and the crowd gasped in the last seconds, but it was Larin all the way for the gold.
Bronzes were won by Korea’s Kang Sang-hyun and Croatia’s Ivan Sapina.