Anastasija Zolotic (in blue) battles Uzbekistan's Ozoda Sobirjonova in the female -52kg final
HAMMAMET, Tunisia (April 11, 2018) -- The golden point was truly golden for Anastasija Zolotic (Largo, Fla.) on Wednesday as she became junior world champion in the female -52kg division. It was the first medal for the U.S. team at the 2018 World Taekwondo Junior Championships as the five-day event reached its third day of competition in Tunisia. It wasn't, however, the first gold medal of the week for Zolotic. The Florida teen also captured gold last Friday at the Youth Olympic Games Qualification Event held in the same location.
“Proud is not a strong enough word to describe how we feel about Anastasija," said USA Taekwondo High Performance Director May Spence. "She didn’t just win, she dominated, and to win half of your matches by point gap at this level is astonishing. USA Taekwondo’s job now is to ensure she has all the support she needs to keep growing and gaining experience - and we fully commit to doing that. If we all do our jobs and Anastasija remains as grounded and committed as she is today there is absolutely no reason she won’t be standing on the very top of an Olympic podium in the next few years. She is that good. The U.S. has its next Taekwondo superstar.”
On her way to mounting the top step of the podium for the second time in six days, Zolotic reeled off six straight victories on Wednesday. She began with convincing wins over Bhutan's Tshering Yangchen (21-0) and Kazakhstan's Yasmina Narbayeva (24-2) to reach the round of 16. There she continued her domination with a 22-6 win over Brazil's Larissa Nascimento Rossi Santos to move into the quarterfinals.
Facing the cream of the crop now, Zolotic edged Russia's Elizaveta Andriianenko, 4-3, and then scored an 18-10 victory over Germany's Vanessa Beckstein in the semis. An action-packed final against Uzbekistan's Ozoda Sobirjonova saw the fighters tied at 28-28 at the end of regulation. In the overtime period, with the first point scored being the deciding factor, it was Zolotic scoring the golden point with an emphatic front kick to the head to claim the victory.
The last American junior world champion was Brandon Ivey in 2014.
The other three American fighters in action Wednesday all recorded at least one win apiece. Khalfani Harris of Florida won his opening match by point gap over Great Britain's Owen Turner (32-11) in the male -63kg division before losing a hard-fought 7-6 decision in the round of 32 to Azerbaijan's Javad Aghayev.
Minnesota's Naomi Bennett started her day in the female -55kg class with a 17-12 win over Austria's Lea Sesar before losing in the round of 32 to Chinese Taipei's Chia-Ling Lo, 21-0. In the male -59kg division, Julian KB Kim from Virginia defeated Georgios Andreou of Cyprus, 19-3, before dropping a 9-4 decision in the round of 32 to Turkey's Arslan Demir.
The World Junior Championships continue Thursday with four more Americans in action. CJ Nickolas of California will fight in the male -68kg division, Zak Day (Littleton, Colo.) competes in the male -73kg class, Aliyah Shipman of Florida is in action in the female -59kg division, and Julie Zlochevskiy from Minnesota fights in the female -63kg class.
The World Taekwondo Junior Championships run through Friday.
Thursday, April 12
CJ Nickolas (Calif.) - Male -68kg
Zak Day (Littleton, Colo.) - Male -73kg
Aliyah Shipman (Fla.) - Female -59kg
Julie Zlochevskiy (Minn.) - Female -63kg
Friday, April 13
Evan Gray (Atlanta, Ga.) - Male -78kg
Vlado Duvnjak (Minn.) - Male +78kg
Alena Viana (Nev.) - Female -68kg
Mason Porch (N.M.) - Female +68kg
The team is being coached by Gergely Salim, Dennis White, Dennis Kim and Eui Lee.
Follow USA Taekwondo's website (www.usa-taekwondo.us) and social media pages for updates throughout the week.