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Is Africa the New Home for Taekwondo? Not Really, But Five Medals Are A Helluva Statement

Since its inception at the 2000 Summer Olympics, Koreans have dominated Taekwondo. However, at Rio this summer, some Africans had something to say about it.

Loudest among them was Cheick Sallah Cisse who won the Men’s under 80 kilograms Taekwondo fight with a buzzer-beating kick to beat Lutalo Muhammad of Great Britain to get the Gold.

Cisse was trailing behind the British fighter by 4-6 points in the last second, but a reverse turning kick to Muhammad’s head gave him a two-point lead. The four last second points he earned from the round kick are the most available points in a single maneuver.

On his winning move, he said: “It was the very last second, and we applied what we have worked on in training. We trained different situations and situations when there are only seconds left. This is what I have learned in training, and it worked. It is a reflex.”

Further, he said, [perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I was able to realize this dream with courage and with passion. You just have to believe in your dreams, and I am an example for it that you can achieve everything if you believe. The gold medal for me is the encouragement of two years of hard work. I started in 2013, and here I am. I am very proud of my medal.”[/perfectpullquote]

This win came just after teammate Ruth Marie Christelle Gbagbi won bronze in the women’s under 67 kilograms category which gives the Ivorian’s their first medals in 32 years.

After the match, the Secretary General of the Ivorian Taekwondo Federation told the press that the historic wins were received with euphoria.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It’s a feeling of joy. It’s not very often that African nations are winning Olympic medals. So we are very proud.”[/perfectpullquote]

After Cisse’s gold medal win, a Nigerien fighter, Abdoulrazak Issoufou Alfaga was inspired.

“That showed me,” he said. “ It is possible to win, even at the last moment.”

He went on to win silver in the men’s over 80 kilograms, the second Olympic medal for the country since 1972. “I want to win for Africa,” he said.

The West African defeated the world champion Dmitry Shokin of Uzbekistan in the semi-finals, but he was beaten for gold by Radik Isaev of Azerbaijan.

Other winners were Hedaya Wadahba who’s bronze for Egypt in the under 57 kilograms was the first in taekwondo for an Egyptian woman. And Tunisia also got their first bronze in Taekwondo from Oussama Oueslati in the Men’s under 80 kilograms.

The President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, Lassana Palenfo, praised the athletes:

“I am proud of these athletes. Africa has great potential,” he said.

Africa may have proved it’s an emerging taekwondo powerhouse with five medals, but it still has a long way to go.

Palenfo added: “We must continue to look inwards, and I urge all our governments in the continent, corporate bodies and the Olympic solidarity to continue to support the re-engineering of sports in the African continent.”


Featured Photo: Chieck Sallah Cisse After Receiving his Taekwondo Gold Medal in Rio.(Photo by Getty Images)

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