Taekwondo pair kickstart gold accounts for Iran and Thailand
Mahdi Eshaghi of Iran was unstoppable on his way to the men’s -48kg taekwondo gold at the International Expo Centre on 17 August, while Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit won the women’s -44kg.
Both fighters claimed the first gold medals of the Games for their respective countries.
Eshaghi looked strong all day and was not even intimidated by Wang Chen-Yu (TPE). The 16-year-old Iranian defeated the reigning -48kg world junior champion 17-9 in the final. Eshaghi defeated Stephane Audibert (FRA) 16-0 in the semi-finals and also had little trouble beating Tawin Hanprab (THA) in the quarterfinal, the bout finishing 20-12.
Sport runs in Eshaghi’s family, but not taekwondo. “My father, Ali, was a volleyball team member [at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games]," the teenager said. But Mahdi was clear where his sporting future lay. “Taekwondo is my favourite sport,” the -45kg world junior champion confirmed.
Although the Iranian was thrilled with his victory, he was not planning to celebrate yet. “I am heading for my bed,” he said. The bronze medals went to Audibert and Daniel Chiovetta (GER), who lost in the semi-finals to Wang.
Wongpattanakit dominated the women’s event. The 17-year-old from Bangkok defeated little heralded Ceren Ozbek (AZE) 21-1 in the final.
The bronze medals went to Chen Zih-Ting (TPE) and Abigail Jones (GBR). Jones, the 2014 world junior champion in the -42kg, was the favourite but Ozbek ended her dream of gold in the semifinal.
“There is nothing that compares to an Olympic or Youth Olympic gold,” Wongpattanakit said. “It is the absolute pinnacle in my sport and I am honoured to represent the youth of my country here in Nanjing.
“The biggest thing for me is the people who came to cheer for me. I am glad I could win the gold for them.”
Ozbek, the first Olympic medallist in taekwondo for Azerbaijan, quickly overcame her disappointment of losing in the final. “Second place is good for me and I think there is more to come,” the 15-year-old said.