1 September 2023

Australia delivers multi-medal haul at World Taekwondo Cadet Championships

Australia has delivered a multi-medal haul at the World Taekwondo Cadet Championships in Sarajevo.

With tough matchups right from the get-go, the 20-strong Aussie contingent gave their all against 73 countries across four days of competition.

Victorian Kerim Yilmaz from the Olympic Martial Arts Centre in Melbourne's northern suburbs set the pace, with the young fighter claiming bronze in the Men's 156cm event after defeating Poland (R32), India (R16) and Jordan (QF) before a semifinal loss to Thailand.

Australia's next medal came through Leonardo Angell from Musa Taekwondo in Sydney, New South Wales, in the Men's 180cm event.

The 14-year-old disposed of Estonia (R32), Cyprus (R16), and Saudi Arabia (QF) before a loss to Uzbekistan in the semifinal.

Australia's last piece of silverware came when Akon Baak from Total Taekwondo Academy in Adelaide secured a silver medal in the Women's 176cm event.

Baak defeated Greece (R16), followed by Mexico in the quarterfinals, the Netherlands in the semifinals, before meeting Iran in the final decider for gold and silver.

Australian Taekwondo's Chief Executive Heather Garroick is delihted to see Australia dominating on the world stage.

"It's a really exciting time for taekwondo in Australia. Our performances in the last 1-2 years have shown real consistency," said Garroick.

"In 2022, Matthew Summerfield (WA) secured a bronze medal at the World Taekwondo Junior Championships. This year, we had Leon Sejranovic (VIC) medal at the Senior World Championships in June, claiming bronze in the men's -74kg, and this week, our Cadets have backed up these performances with further podium finishes."

"We're incredibly proud to see our young athletes perform so strongly on the world stage. It takes a village to send a squad overseas, and we couldn't do it without the support and dedication of our clubs, coaches, support staff and parents."

Amidst all the excitement of Australia's performance this week, Garroick admits Australian Taekwondo is one of the many sports experiencing funding challenges at the junior level as it works to develop its future stars.

"Kerim and Akon are part of our Performance Pathways Program, while Leonardo is a training partner within the program. This program is a critical part of the High-Performance ecosystem; it develops and nurtures athletes on their journey to become elite athletes."

"Australian Taekwondo has been focused on providing more development opportunities for our athletes and coaches. This has included securing more international events in Australia to offer greater competition experiences against the more dominant taekwondo countries and building rewarding professional development opportunities that increase coaching abilities and standards. We are starting to see this investment paying off, but we need to be able to sustain it."

"The challenge for our Cadet and Junior athletes, our next cycle of Olympians, is limited funding. Like many sports, this level, our junior elite participation level, is greatly underfunded, and it's putting significant strain on the NSO as well as athletes and their families."

The World Taekwondo Cadet Championships serve as a crucial stage for taekwondo athletes to develop during their time as Cadets.

Australia last medalled at the World Cadet Taekwondo Championships in 2019 when Queenslander Tiarnagh Sweeney won bronze in Uzbekistan and Australia's first Cadet medal.

Cadets representing Australia in Sarajevo this week made the national team after each placed first in their nominated division at national team selections in July. 

Over 80 Cadets battled it out for selection and a spot in one of the 20 divisions on offer.

The Australian team has been led by Olympic gold medallist Dongmin Cha, Australian Taekwondo's Cadets National Coach.

The South Korean native joined Australian Taekwondo in a bilateral development partnership between Kukkiwon, the Korean Embassy and Australian Taekwondo to help support and develop Australian athletes. 

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