Author: Nadir SANANOGLU
Azerbaijani taekwondo is going through a painful period. The national team, which has been awarded medals at various prestigious competitions for many years, is renewed this season. As a result, the team returned to Baku from the main competition of the year with an extremely low number of medals.
The World Cup in Guadalajara was attended by 755 athletes from 122 countries. The Azerbaijani team was represented by eight taekwondokas none of whom were title-winning athletes. For example Farida Azizova, who is one of the main hopes among the women athletes, did not join the event due to her injury. Two-time world champion and Rio Olympics winner Radik Isayev and Olympic medallist Milad Beigi Kharchegani also were not included in the national team. In recent months, they have systematically breached discipline and have therefore been repeatedly disqualified by their coaches. Now their future career as athletes is in question. It is expected that they will end their performances.
As for the athletes who took part at the World Cup, they did not perform well. Olympic bronze medallist Patimat Abakarova, Islamic Games silver medallist Minaya Akbarova, Islamic Games bronze medallist Hashim Muhammedov, debutants Sadri Hamidrza, Sayad Dadashov, Eltaj Gafarov and Taleh Suleymanov returned home without awards. Most of the athletes showed their complete unpreparedness for the tournament, hence losing at the early stage.
Hopes for Aghayev
Azerbaijani national team won just one award at the year's main event - a bronze medal for Javad Aghayev (68kg). In the qualifying round Javad defeated Chichon Cho (Thailand), followed by Mateusz Szesnowski (Poland) in the next bout. Aghayev also defeated Ulugbek Rashitov (Uzbekistan) in the 1/8 finals and Zaid Mustafa (Jordan) in the 1/4 finals. In the semi-finals, Javad defeated Kwon Doyun (South Korea) in the first round, but lost the next two and received the bronze medal of the tournament. Unfortunately, it was the only medal the Azerbaijani team could bring home to please his fans.
By the way, the national team brought back 1 gold and 1 bronze medal from the previous World Cup.
Certainly, such a poor performance at the World Cup cannot be praised. Although, to some extent, the reforms initiated in the team are a valid reason for the current situation. The Azerbaijan Taekwondo Federation trusts the national team's head coach and supports his decisions. That is why, when the renowned athletes were excluded from the team, the coaching staff stated that there were good reasons for this.
The absence of Radik Isayev and Milad Beighi Khargegani at training sessions after the pandemic already raised some questions. There were rumours that Isayev was thinking of ending his career, while others claimed that both Radik and Milad were asking for higher fees. The problems, which began back in 2018, remain unsolved. Radik, Milad and a number of other taekwondokas are apparently suffering from star disease. Their unserious approach to training, disruption of the regime is what eventually led to the problem. As a result, the coaching staff had to expel the athletes from the national team, thus showing that there were no irreplaceable ones.
Reza Mehmandost, head coach of the Azerbaijani men's taekwondo team, said the results of the World Cup were analysed and necessary measures would be taken to resolve them. According to Mehmandost, the national team now needs some time. The federation and coaching staff are taking appropriate steps to fully prepare the team for the world championship in Baku.
Unlike the adults, the junior taekwondokas were more successful at their last competition in Malta. The team won 1 gold and 1 silver medal on the first day of the European Championship in Valletta. The gold medal went to Zahra Isayeva (29kg). Khuraman Javadzade (37kg) received the silver medal.
Azerbaijan's national taekwondo team does not have much time to rectify the situation. The next world cup will be held in 2023 in Baku. As the prestigious competition will be organised in Baku, fans and the local sport community expect a more serious result. It is therefore important to accelerate reforms and take concrete steps. Rejuvenation of the national team is an understandable and necessary decision. This problem emerges sooner or later everywhere and is quite understandbale. We must think about the future and train young players in time. After all, the Baku championship will be followed by the Paris Summer Olympics.
Currently, there is no athlete in the national team to represent Azerbaijan at prestigious taekwondo competitions. We will see what the national team looks like at the Baku World Cup.