Barely a week after clinching gold medal at the 35th Belgian Open, captain of Nigeria’s taekwondo team to the 2011 All Africa Games, Uche Perez Chukwumerije, at the weekend in Hamburg made it to the last eight of the German Open.
Chukwumerije, who had to fight through injury, which he copped on his way to victory at the Belgian Open last week was impressive in his fist round fight against Serikzhan Abdrassilove of Kazakhstan.
The tactical encounter saw the two athletes fighting safe but it was the Nigerian champion that emerged winner with a 2-1 victory. His second fight – the last eight (quarterfinal) pitched the 2011 All Africa Games gold medallist against, the current military world champion, Sajjad Mardani of Iran. The Iranian, who was one of the top rated athletes in the men’s +87kg category of the competition had earlier this year claimed gold medal at the 2014 Dutch Open when he defeated Olympics champion, Gabon’s Anthony Obame. Mardani knew that he had to be at his best to overcome Chukwumerije.
Despite signs of competition fatigue in his first fight, Chukwumerije managed to shrug off stiff challenge from his first Kazhastanian opponent. However, his efforts to rally against the experienced Iranian, who also won a silver medal at the last 2013 World Championships in Mexico, were not enough to secure a win for him. He fell 10-0 to the more experienced Iranian. With his efforts, Chukwumerije had garnered points to improve on his world rating scheduled to be released later this month. Speaking from Hamburg, after his loss, a disappointed Chukwumerije reflected after the fight, “I did not get my tactics right, and I was a little tired from last week. In this sport, you get punished for not getting your tactics spot-on. A huge positive is that I gained 2.6 ranking points from getting to the quarter-finals, but I am a bit disappointed I could not secure the whole 10 points.” He however, emphasized the need for the young upcoming players, as well as the current elite athletes to compete more internationally and gain international ranking points.
“In the space of two weeks, I have gained about 12.6 points. By the time the next ranking comes, I would have moved up a lot of spaces on the world ranking list. The more Nigeria taekwondo athletes compete and gain those points, the more likely we would we can qualify more people for the Rio 2016 Olympics, since top six in the world qualify automatically”. He noted that it was impossible to compete against nations that sponsor their teams for practically every point-ranking tournament, thus canvassed for more private sector and public sector support/investment for taekwondo, who is claimed is getting massively popular every other day, especially amongst teeming Nigerian youth.
Source: This Day