By Laman Ismayilova
Following taekwondo’s successful run at the Rio Olympic, the sport’s star athletes are gathering to close 2016’s event calendar with three consecutive top-tier events in Baku.
The World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final will take place in Baku’s Sarhadchi Olympic Sports Complex on December 9-10.
More than 100 top Olympic-ranked athletes, fighting in four female and four male weight categories, to earn ranking points in advance of the 2017 fighting season.
A host of Olympic medal winners will be in action, but all local eyes are sure to be fixed on Radik Isaev, Azerbaijan’s gold medalist in the men’s heavyweight category.
On December 11, the World Taekwondo Federation Gala Awards will take place in Baku’s Badamdar Hotel.
The ritzy, black-tie event will reward the best players, best kick, best referees, best coach and best member national association of the year, as chosen by their peers in on-site voting.
The event is designed to get the athletes out of their tracksuits and into their evening dress, and adding a touch of glitz to the sport.
The World Taekwondo Team Championships will take place on December 12-13, , also at the Sarhadchi Olympic Sports Complex.
Eight national teams per gender division – i.e. eight male and eight female teams – are competing for honors.
Widely seen as the most exciting format in sport taekwondo, the five-person teams, which include an additional substitute, do battle in an ultra fast-paced, action-packed tag-team format.
In a world first, mixed-gender teams will take to the field of play in an inaugural event, thus giving the championships three winning teams – one female, one male and one mixed.
“Rio 2016 was the best Olympics ever for taekwondo, but many players are already thinking about the 2020 Olympic cycle, so the Grand Prix final in Baku offers athletes on the path to Tokyo early ranking points,” said WTF President Chungwon Choue
“The Gala Awards is our way of thanking our athletes and officials by offering them an evening of glamor, then we end our week in Baku with the Team Championships, which always deliver edge-of-seat action”, he added.
The week of events will be preceded, on December 8, with an all-day meeting of the WTF Athletes’ Committee. The agenda includes discussions with members of the WTF Technical Committee.
Taekwondo is one of the most popular sports in Azerbaijan. The National Taekwondo Federation has trained many prominent athletes since its founding in 1992. Many of those athletes now enjoy international recognition.
The Federation’s training facility houses new, state-of-the-art training equipment and has a proud history of bringing up more than 500 black belt recipients and athletes.
National athletes showed their best this summer at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Azerbaijan left Rio de Janeiro with a total of 18 medals, signifying the nation's most successful Olympic outcome in its independent history. Nine of these medals were distributed to the Azerbaijani team in wrestling, three in taekwondo for the first time, and two each in boxing, sprint canoeing, and judo.