Para Taekwondo

Bopha Kong – Ones to Watch

World Para Evening-25

By Lee Reaney | For the IPC


Beating the Best is Being the Best for France’s Bopha Kong


The three-time world champion heads into 2018 as the No. 1-ranked fighter in his division, and one of France’s biggest medal contenders for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.


For France’s Bopha Kong – Para taekwondo’s initial world champion in the u61kg K43 division – his drive to succeed is simple:


“I want to be the most beautiful competitor in the world of Taekwondo”, he tells the IPC.


He’s already laid that claim in Para taekwondo. The 36-year-old fighter has three world titles, two European crowns, and an IWAS World Games championship under his belt.


Para taekwondo is his craft


Just don’t label him a Para taekwondo fighter. He’s a fighter first. Para taekwondo is his craft.


“Too often I feel that people want to put me in the ‘disabled’ box”, he says. “I don’t want to train only young athletes that are disabled. I want to train young athletes in difficult situations too.”


Forced to switch from boxing to Para taekwondo after losing his hands in an accident at the age of 18, Kong turned to martial arts philosophy to help cope with the loss.


“Martial arts develops your self esteem”, he says. “It develops a respect for the word in you, a sense of community, and a feeling of empathy.”


So he headed back to the gym and has since become one of France’s best hopes for a medal at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.


US Open favourite


Heading into the US Open this month – 2018’s first tournament for ranking points – Kong is the No. 1 ranked fighter in the world.


Last year he defeated Canada’s Anthony Cappello in the US Open final. He hopes to repeat the feat this year.


“My goal in 2018 is to win every tournament I compete in”, he says, "and I want to compete in them all!”


To that end, he makes a significant commitment to training. He focuses on technical improvements and video analysis at three club trainings each week and works on physical training nearly every day.


“Para taekwondo competition is growing and becoming much stronger technically”, he points out. “To the point that some fighters could probably compete with [able-bodied] ones!”


My dream is to be the best of the best


After becoming Para taekwondo’s first world champion, his next goal is to become its first Paralympic champion.


“The one that wins is the best of the best. This achievement is my dream – to be the best in the world”, he says.


“The best players make me feel more than alive”, he says. “Like I can go beyond my limits”.


By Lee Reaney | For the IPC