BAKU, Azerbaijan (Jun 1, 2023) - It has been a whirlwind 12 months for Korea’s newest World Champion, Sanghyun Kang.
A student of Taekwondo at the Korean National Sports University, Kang had not competed at international level as a senior before this year.
While honing his craft in domestic competitions in Korea, Kang was selected for the national team and he has quickly made a big impression. In his first three competitions in 2023 he won gold at the US Open, gold at the Canada Open and bronze at the World Taekwondo Grand Slam.
Last night he added his most prestigious medal so far: gold at the Baku 2023 World Taekwondo Championships.
A world title is always an incredible achievement but it is even more impressive when you consider where Kang was this time last year.
“It was the first time to be in the national team but it was a very good result so I am very happy,” Kang says. “It has been a long time since we got a World Championships medal in the -87kg but I got it so that’s why it is very meaningful for me.”
Kang attributes his success to what he has learnt since training as part of the national team.
“I went into the village for the first time and I met the national team members and national seniors so that’s why I improved my technical strengths.”
Among his team mates are his close friends World Champion from Guadalajara 2022 Woo-hyeok Park and Jaekwon Kang.
There is no doubt he had adapted to the national team exceptionally well and exceptionally quickly. It wasn’t just his gold medal that caught the eye in Baku. In the semi-final of the World Championships he produced one of the fights of the tournament against his Iranian opponent Arian Salimi. In the second round the two fighters scored 9 points each in just 15 seconds reflecting the ferocious pace of the match.
“I like to attack,” Kang says. “But physically its hard so I have to take it step by step. In the final I was tired but it’s the final so I put in all my energy.”
With the points from his wins this year, Kang will now qualify for the Paris 2023 Grand Prix where he hopes to win gold and hopes to be able to return in a year’s time for the Olympic Games. With the progress he has made over the last six months you wouldn’t bet against him.
Reflecting on what has been an incredible year he says: “It was unexpected but I have confidence.”