Canada’s taekwondo squad enjoyed its most successful day in Pan American Games history, winning three silvers and one bronze medal on Sunday in Lima, Peru.
Canada’s poomsae athletes kicked the day off with two silver medals in team competitions, while Winnipeg’s Skylar Park won a silver and Hervan Nkogho claimed bronze in the kyorugi events.
Park capped off the Canadian medal haul with a second-place finish in the women’s under 57kg category. The highly-touted number-one seed heading into the event dropped a 32-22 decision to second-ranked, Anastasija Zolotic of the United States, in the final.
“It is Pan Am Games so I’m happy with the silver, but I really wanted the gold. I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to do that,” said Park. “I wish I could have performed my best for everyone, but it just didn’t happen today.”
The 20-year-old Park, who is coming off her first career World Championship bronze medal triumph, exchanged blows with the American in a closely-fought battle until just over one-minute remaining in the third round where her golden hopes came to an end.
“There is lots I learned today, but mainly it is going out there and doing my best. The Tokyo Olympics is the ultimate goal for me. Everything this year has been building towards that so hopefully the next time we meet when it really counts, I’ll come out on top,” added Park.
Taking advantage of her first-round bye, Park earned her spot in the final after knocking off Chile’s Fernanda Aguirre, 17-11, in the quarter-final round. She made easy work of her semifinal opponent, Gianella Evolo of Argentina, winning 14-1.
Chile’s Aguirre and Costa Rica’s Carolena Carstens won the bronze medals.
Meanwhile, Quebec City’s Hervan Nkogho captured the world’s attention with a stellar bronze-medal performance of his own in the men’s under 68kg bracket. The 22-year-old squeaked out a 13-12 bronze-medal win over Costa Rica’s Juan Soto.
“I’m very happy. I worked very hard for this,” said Nkogho, who was suiting up in his first Pan Am Games. “I knew I could get on the podium if I stuck to the game plan today, and it worked out.”
It was no easy journey for the seventh-ranked Nkogho en route to accomplishing his goals. The soft-spoken Canuck won his opening round match 21-4 to Justin Choy, of Guyana. He secured a spot in the semifinals with a come-from-behind win in the quarter-final round against Mexico’s Jose Nava. Down for most of the match, the Canadian topped the number-two seed 16-12 before the final bell sounded.
“I had fought him about five times before, so I knew him very well,” said Nkogho. “That was a big win for me today and gave me a lot of confidence.”
Nkogho was relegated to the bronze-medal match in the Repachage after dropping an 18-6 decision to Bernardo Pie of the Dominican Republic. But he quickly regrouped to secure his spot on the podium.
“This gives me a lot of confidence, it is an important result for my ranking and just very good heading into the Olympic year,” added Nkogho.
Brazil’s Edival Marques won the men’s gold-medal final 17-14 over Bernarado Pie.
Chile’s Ignacio Morales won the other men’s under 68kg bronze medal.
Canada’s Poomsae Athletes Add Two Silvers to Canadian Medal Haul
Canada’s 22-year-old Jinsu Ha led four teenagers to two silver medals on Sunday morning during the final day of poomsae competitions in Lima.
Ha teamed up with 17-year-old Michelle Lee from Toronto to win the silver medal in the mixed pairs poomsae event. The Canadian duo notched a score of 7.440 in their artistic routine on the Pan American Games mat.
“I was a little nervous going into the pairs event because I have never performed on such a big stage, but the crowd gave us a lot of energy and I’m really proud we were able to get the silver,” said Lee.
The Canucks matched scores with the team from Mexico. The presentation score was used to decide the tie breaker, landing the Mexicans on top of the podium.
The boisterous crowd at the Callao Sports Centre erupted when the hometown team of Peru claimed the bronze with a score of 7.010.
Lee and Ha had little time to celebrate before heading back into the arena for the mixed team freestyle event.
Canada’s fab five that also included 19-year-old Mark Busy (Calgary), 19-year-old AJ Assadian (Toronto) and the youngest taekwondo athlete at the Pan American Games – 16-year-old Valerie Ho (Calgary) – brought the stadium to its feet with an electrifying performance that combined flips, jumps, kicks and spins.
The Canadians secured the silver with a score of 7.120.
“This is overwhelming. It feels so good,” said Mark Busy. “The key today was our head space. We were all in a good place. We all wanted to be there on that stage and compete. We told ourselves to just compete and get this done and we did it. I’m so happy we did.”
The United States topped the Canadians for the gold medal with a score of 7.240. Puerto Rico locked up the bronze medal at 7.000.
The double-podium finish capped off a long journey to the first-ever Pan American Games for the Canadian squad.
“It feels awesome. So much has gone in the preparation for this event. We have all had to sacrifice a lot to train for this event, but it was all worth it to come here and finish second,” said Valerie Ho. “I am overwhelmed with emotions today. I am so happy we did this together as a team, but I’m also a little sad it is over.”
Canada’s poomsae squad stole the show in the sport’s debut at the Pan American Games by winning three medals in the four events. Toronto’s AJ Assadian kicked things off on Saturday for the youngsters when he became the first Canadian ever to climb onto the poomsae podium at a major international games after winning the bronze medal in the men’s individual competition.
“I’m really excited to be bringing two medals back to Canada. I think our performance here shows anything is possible,” said Assadian. “We did all the little things right – rest, preparation and followed our plan – to perform at our best. We expressed Canada today. We were fierce and intense, and we are very proud we were achieved this goal.”