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With the countdown now starting before the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, Korea, the question is beginning to be asked: Who are the top athletes to watch? Who versus who are the greatest rivals? And which categories promise the best fights?
When it comes to rivalries – and what are certain to be some of the most view-worthy battles in Muju – look no further than the Men’s -68kg category. It was in this category that a previously unknown and wholly unexpected star rose in Rio 2016. Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan tore to the top of this, arguably the most competitive category in the sport, winning gold in spectacular, jump-kicking style.
Abughaush was a name on nobody’s lips prior to Rio. He had lost in the preliminaries of the 2015 WTF World Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia. When he arrived in Rio, his Olympic ranking was 40. True, he had some form: In 2012 at the Sharm El-Sheikh World Junior Championships in Egypt. He fought at -63kg and won gold. But, when he moved up to the seniors and moved up in weight, he won nothing: zero, zilch, nada.
he first athlete who has qualified for -68kg in Muju is Korea’s Lee. One of the most experienced and ambidextrous fighters in the sport, he won gold in both the 2011 and 2013 Worlds – albeit in different weight categories. In the Olympics, in 2012, Lee won silver in the -58kg category, and in Rio in 2016 – after being taken out by Abughaush – he came back like a pro to win bronze in the -68kg in repechage. The first time Lee ever fought at -68g was in Rio in 2016; Muju will be his first world championships at this weight. In Rio, Lee was unable to counter Abughaush’s killer left kick. His defeat was a shock for the formidable Team Korea, for whom Lee was the prime gold contender among the males. But clearly, Lee and his crew will have done their homework on “The Wolf” in the months since Rio.
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