Belgium, Côte d'Ivoire and Korea triumph as curtain falls on 2023 Grand Prix season in Manchester


MANCHESTER, UK (Dec 03, 2023) – Taekwondo stars from around the globe today delivered magnificent performances at the Grand Prix Final Manchester 2023, with athletes from Belgium, Côte d'Ivoire and Korea emerging victorious in the electric conclusion to the season.


Claiming gold in the women -67kg final was Belgium’s Sarah Chaari, who looks to be back on top following her 2022 World Championships victory. Ivorian Taekwondo sensation and reigning World Champion Cheick Sallah Cissé emerged victorious in the men +80kg to add a seventh Grand Prix gold to his tally. Dabin Lee of Korea took the last Grand Prix Final gold on offer in Manchester in the women +67kg to add a fifth gold to her ever-growing collection.  


Women -67kg


Belgium’s Sarah Chaari faced China’s Mengyu Zhang, who knocked out reigning World Champion Magda Wiet Henin of France in the quarterfinals, in the final of the women -67kg.


The scoreboard remained level until the final minute when Chaari landed a front punch and a kick to the body to take a 3-0 lead. Her lead was extended further after Zhang conceded a Gam-jeom 4-0. Zhang fought hard to close the gap, connecting with two body kicks to take it to 4-4, but Chaari quickly responded with a kick to the body to claim the round 6-4. The Belgian could taste victory was near in the second round, landed a series of blows to take it 16-4 and, ultimately, win Grand Prix Final gold.


Julyana Al-Sadeq of Jordan and 2022 World Championships silver medallist Aleksandra Perisic of Serbia battled it out for bronze. The Serbian kicked off the scoring with kick to the body 2-0, but Al-Sadeq later landed a punch to close the gap to 2-1. The intensity of the match accelerated in the final 15 seconds, with a flurry of blows seeing the lead come and go before the Jordanian athlete came out on top 8-8 based on hit registrations. Perisic responded in round two, taking a 3-0 lead in the first minute that she held until Al-Sadeq landed a stunning reverse kick to the body to steal the lead in the closing seconds 4-3 to take bronze.


Zhang took on Serbia’s Perisic in the semi-final. Mengyu flew through the rounds in style, moving through the gears to take the match 2-0. In the other semi-final, Chaari went up against Al-Sadeq of Jordan in a fierce encounter. Al-Sadeq got off to a flying start in round one to take a lead that, despite Chaari’s best efforts, proved insurmountable. However, the Belgian came out firing in round two to take it to a decider. In the final round, Chaari maintained the momentum to prevent Al-Sadeq from defending her Riyadh 2022 Grand Prix Final title.


Men +80kg


Cheick Sallah Cissé of Côte d'Ivoire put on a show in the men +80kg gold medal match against Maicon Siqueira of Brazil.


Siqueira wasted no time in trying to get an early lead, racking up points with two body kicks to take a 0-4 lead. Cissé responded with a body kick to close the gap to 2-4, before taking the lead 5-4 after a video reply confirmed a kick to the head. A Gam-jeom levelled the score at 5-5, and trading body kicks in the final 20 seconds saw the scoreboard finish level at 7-7, but it was the Ivorian who took the round due to more hit registrations.


In an intense second round, both athletes came out aggressively and quickly traded body kicks to get the scoreboard ticking to 4-4. A flurry of kicks in the space of just five seconds then saw the scoreboard jump to 8-7 in the Ivorian’s favour. Cissé then landed a punch and gained another point via a Gam-jeom to take a 10-7 lead. The Brazilian fought back, landed two body kicks but a Gam-jeom conceded saw the scores level at 11-11. Cissé soon landed a body kick and a Gam-jeom helped him regain the lead at 14-11. In the closing 20 seconds, despite Siqueira’s best efforts, Cissé held the lead to claim his seventh Grand Prix gold.


Spain’s Ivan Garcia Martinez claimed bronze following Croatia’s Pasko Bozic’s withdrawal from the contest.


Cissé met Bozic in the semi-final. The reigning World Champion’s experience in big matches proved too much for Bozic who struggled to find a way into the first round. While round two was a much closer contest, Cissé kept his focus to clinch the victory 2-0. Siqueira bested Spain’s Garcia Martinez 2-0 in the other semi-final to book a showdown for gold with Cissé.


Women +67kg


In the women +67kg final, Dabin Lee of Korea claimed the gold after home favourite Rebecca McGowan had to withdraw due to injury.   


In the all-French bronze medal contest, reigning World Champion Althea Laurin met Solene Avoulette. Avoulette and Laurin traded body kicks in what proved to be a cagey first round, but it was Laurin who took it 2-2 by virtue of having more hit registrations. Avoulette levelled proceedings after holding a 4-0 lead in round two. In the decider, Laurin got the scoreboard ticking, landing a head kick and several kicks to the body to close the round 9-1 and step onto the podium with bronze.


Lee went up against France’s Laurin in the semi-final. The Korean dispatched the reigning World Champion 2-0 in a confident display of Taekwondo to book a place in the Grand Prix Final. In the other semi-final, McGowan met France’s Avoulette, who had already knocked out three-time World Champion Bianca Cook of Great Britain. It was McGowan who came out on top 2-0, much to the home crowd’s delight.