Eight Canadian Taekwondo Athletes Lock Up Spots at 2019 Pan Am Games
SANTO DOMINGO, Do.—Mission accomplished!
Canada will send a full team of eight taekwondo athletes for the kyorugi competition at the 2019 Pan Am Games, July 26 – August 10. Each of the Canadian athletes secured a trip to the big show in Lima, Peru after the Canucks went unbeaten at the qualifying tournament in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Thursday.
“This is excellent. We all fight individually, but we came here together as a team, and not too many countries can celebrate the same outcome,” said Young Su Choung, who coaches three of the eight Canadian athletes who went into battle. “This is the first time in a very long time we have had this type of success. The team felt supported, the energy was positive, and this is just the beginning of what is to come.”
Winnipeg’s Skylar Park led the Canadian charge with a dominating performance in the women’s 57kg weight class. The 19-year-old proved she is on track to challenge for the medals this summer after dusting Nicaragua’s Reyna Cruz 22-0.
“It was very good today and I’m super excited to qualify for my first Pan Am Games,” said Park, who captured two bronze medals at Grand Prix events last year. “The goal for Lima is gold. I have a few competitions coming up so those will help me with my training. There are a few things I need to work on to make sure I’m ready.”
Toronto’s Yvette Yong capped off a memorable week by securing a spot of her own on Team Canada. One day after being named the CISM Female Athlete of the Year, the 28-year-old won the final match for the Canadians with a 15-8 win over another competitor from Nicaragual, Erika Narvaez in the women’s 49kg division.
Two other Torontonians, Ashley Kraayeveld and Rachel Cuma, will also be on the plane to Lima.
Kraayeveld continued her stellar run into 2019 after securing a spot in the women’s 67kg division. Kraayeveld, along with Yong, both won gold at the recent World Military Taekwondo Championships.
Fighting for the first time in a higher weight class, Cuma was forced to make adjustments mid-fight in order to take down hometown girl, Katherine Rodriguez of Dominican Republic, 12-6.
“I am really excited. This is the first time fighting against these bigger girls. I was happy to be able to play my game and come out on top in the end. It wasn’t an easy win, but I’m happy to pull it off,” said Cuma.
“I’m used to fighting in a lighter division, so I couldn’t rely on my legs and footwork and had to utilize my punch. Once I settled into that game plan, things fell into place. I was able to land punches and fill the void for the kicks in the first round.”
Each of the four Canadian men contributed to a memorable day for the nation’s taekwondo community.
Quebec City’s Hervan Nkogho led the Canadian charge with a 16-6 triumph over Julio Zepeda, of Honduras in the 68kg class. Christopher lliesco, also of Quebec City, topped Uruguay’s Jonathan Rodriguez 4-1 in the men’s 80kg division, while Toronto’s Jordan Stewart made had little trouble with Aruba’s Stuart Smit. Stewart punched his ticket to the Pan Am Games with a 22-9 win.
Toronto’s Miguel Diaz brought the Canadian team to its feet, winning a 30-29 nail biter over Edward Espinosa, of the Dominican Republic in the 58kg draw.
“That felt really good and I’m happy I performed well. I almost let it slip away, but that is the beauty of today’s game. It can really go either way. I am so happy the whole (Canadian) team qualified,” said Diaz.
“The first and second round was good. I was going for a point gap, but the third round he got a bit of energy from the crowd. Now it’s time to prepare for Lima. I need to continue working on the stamina and cardio that is needed to match up to the international athletes. We will head there prepared to win gold.”
Other coaches leading the victorious Canadian squad included: Jae Park, Alain Bernier, Carla Bacco, and Sung Min Son.
Each athlete needed to win one fight to earn one of the 44 women’s and 48 men’s spots in the Pan Am Games draw.
The top-12 athletes in each of the women’s under 49kg, under57kg, and under 67kg classes on Thursday qualified, while only the top-eight women in weight classes over 67kg. The top-12 athletes in each of the men’s weight divisions also qualified.
Canada’s poomsae squad will take centre stage in Santo Domingo on Friday where the top–five teams will be headed to Lima, Peru this summer.
Taekwondo Canada is the National Sport Governing Body for Taekwondo in Canada. We are recognized by World Taekwondo, Pan American Taekwondo Union, Sport Canada, Own the Podium, Canadian Olympic Committee, and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Taekwondo Canada sends national teams to the Olympic Games, World Taekwondo Championships, Pan Am Taekwondo Championships, Pan Am Games, World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Poomsae World Championships, Pan Am Poomsae Championships, and is also targeting the 2020 Paralympic Games.