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Top taekwondo athletes mount comeback, get sweet revenge in Taipei

2017/09/02 19:30:51

Turkish taekwondo athlete İrem Yaman

Taipei, Sept. 2 (CNA) For some athletes, the recently concluded 2017 Taipei Summer Universiade was a place to celebrate sports, experience culture and make friends.

But for others -- such as Turkish taekwondo athletes İrem Yaman and Hatice Kübra İlgün -- it was also a place to regroup, seek revenge and prove themselves after defeats in the world championships and other elite events.

"I was very sad after the world championships, but I recovered by winning the gold medal here," 22-year-old Yaman, who won the gold medal in the women's -62kg weight division at the Taipei Universiade, told CNA in an interview before leaving Taiwan.

Ranking world no. 1 in her division, Yaman was eliminated in round 32 by Elin Johansson of Sweden at the World Taekwondo Championships in June in South Korea.

She said the preparations she had made for the world championships helped her win her matches in Taipei, and added that she is satisfied to have ended the season with gold.

İlgün, meanwhile, had sweet revenge when she beat her South Korean rival Lee Ahreum 15:14 in the women's -57kg gold medal match at the Taipei Universiade.

The win was significant for İlgün because she competed against and lost to Lee in the gold medal match at the world championships in June.

After losing to Lee, İlgün said she began studying her opponent's games and skills so that she could improve her own techniques.

"I got revenge," İlgün told CNA, adding that her ultimate goal is to beat two-time Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones, who currently ranks world no. 1 in the -57kg division.

"I beat my opponent at the Universiade. I can beat her (Jones) too," said İlgün, who ranks world no. 7 in her division.

(Hatice Kübra İlgün)

Seeing the Universiade as an opportunity to build experience, both Yaman and İlgün said they now have their sights set on the 2018 European Taekwondo Championships, the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships, and ultimately, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Turkish athletes won a total of three gold medals, seven silvers and six bronzes at the 12-day Taipei Universiade that concluded Aug. 30.

Also among the medalists are 26-year-old Turkish archer Demir Elmaağaçlı and his younger sister Gizem Elmaağaçlı.

Demir, who ranks world no. 3 in men's compound, grabbed two silver medals in the men's compound individual and mixed compound team, while his sister won a bronze medal in the women's compound team.

The brother-sister archers said they train together and give each other emotional support.

"He always tells me, you can do it," Gizem said, while Demir said he feels more powerful and performs better when his sister is beside him.

Although not satisfied with his results at the Universiade, Demir said he enjoyed the Olympic spirit at the games and thought the level of competition was high, with strong archers participating.

After graduation, Demir, who studies at Anadolu University, said his goal is to reach the world no. 1 spot. After concluding his sports career, he hopes to continue as a coach and train new archers for Turkey, he said.

(Demir Elmaağaçlı and sister Gizem Elmaağaçlı)

Regarding their brief stay in Taipei, all four athletes said they have good memories and felt welcomed in the city.

The only thing that could be improved is the halal kitchen at the athletes' village, which did not offer a lot of variety, Yaman said.

But there is at least one reason they will all remember Taipei.

"Since I got my gold medal here, I will not forget Taipei," İlgün said.

(Team manager Hayri Ertan (left) and the Turkish athletes)

(By Christie Chen)