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It's all kicking off in Wuxi

Updated : 2023-04-05
By SHI FUTIAN (China Daily)


Olympic qualification places were up for grabs during last week's tournaments in Wuxi, which will also host the 2023 WT Grand Slam Champions Series in December. CHINA DAILY

WT Grand Slam Champions Series returns with elite action in a world-class venue

With Olympic places up for grabs, thrilling bouts featuring the world's best athletes and interactive activities for fans, the World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series returned to Wuxi, Jiangsu province, last week.

The Wuxi 2022 World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series and Olympic Qualification Tournament concluded on Monday. Over 400 athletes from 16 countries and regions took part in the tournaments, with a number of Olympic and world champions showcasing their skills.

The two-day Olympic Qualification Tournament began last Thursday, with the top eight athletes in each discipline entering the Grand Slam Champions Series, which kicked off on Sunday.

After the return of the 2022 edition of the competition last week, which was postponed due to the pandemic, the 2023 World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series will also be staged in Wuxi in December.

After December's tournament, the highest ranking athletes from eight disciplines will earn direct qualification to next year's Olympics — one of the major attractions of the event.

World Taekwondo president Choue Chung-won hopes the Wuxi event can become a platform for the next generation of stars to grow and shine.

"The World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series is a young tournament that's closely connected with the Olympics. We hope more young stars can stand out in Wuxi, and then shine at the Olympics," said Choue.

"Every time I visit Wuxi, it feels like I have come back home. The tournament has made Wuxi a global taekwondo hub that attracts the attention of the world."

Team China also sent its top athletes to the event, which proved to be a tough test for the Chinese aces.

Zuo Ju won the women's — 49kg gold in Wuxi after a tough final against Spain's Adriana Cerezo Iglesias, who won silver at the Tokyo Olympics.

"I was overthinking before the final, but when it actually started, I just told myself to give it all I have," said Zuo. "She had the lead once in the final. I just told myself to relax and try some deceptive moves and keep adjusting my tactics.

"I wasn't always in top form, so I want to thank my team for helping me through that tough time and allowing me to regain my confidence."

The Wuxi tournaments were also a great platform for young athletes to gain experience. Tan Linjia from Guangdong province came up against Spanish star Cerezo Iglesias in the second round of the Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Despite suffering an expected defeat, Tan told media that the matchup was nonetheless a great experience that "widened her horizons and showed her clearer path for the future". Yang Yi, a coach from Shenyang Sport University, told media that such high-level tournaments in China were unthinkable years ago when he was an athlete, and the Wuxi event was a great opportunity for all Chinese athletes.

Apart from thrilling competitions, an interactive activity was held during the tournaments to promote the sport. On Friday, several Chinese taekwondo stars, including legendary veteran Wu Jingyu and Rio Olympics champion Zhao Shuai, visited Wuxi Donggang Experimental School to interact with students.

"I just hope more professional athletes can come to the local communities and schools, and become role models for the next generation. We should bring positive energy to them and teach them the Olympic spirit. The chance to meet Olympic champions gives kids a great chance to fully experience the charm of sports," said Wu, who won women's flyweight gold at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Wu stressed that Wuxi has become a global hub for taekwondo, with the city boasting the world's first-class venue for the sport.

"I hope more people can see the tournaments in Wuxi, where we have the best venue and high-level competitions. That's how we can attract more people to taekwondo," she added.

Zheng Shuyin, the 2016 Rio Olympics women's heavyweight gold medalist, also participated in the interactive activities, guiding young athletes at the school through a training session on Friday.

"Many of the kids I met today have mastered the basic skills of taekwondo. I'm so happy to see the promising development of our sport at grassroots level," said Zheng. "More and more kids are involved in our sport, and this is a very encouraging sign."


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