Naples, Italy – Team USA closed out the final three days of taekwondo competition with an historic bronze medal in women's team sparring at the Summer World University Games, bringing the team's total medal count to one gold, one silver and one bronze. Representing USA in the bronze-medal winning women's sparring team were Makayla Gorka, Cheyenne Lewis, Lizette Salas and Logan Weber. It was the first medal for the U.S. in the team sparring divsion at the World University Games since the division's inception in 2015. Gold and silver medals were earned earlier in the week by Adalis "AJ" Munoz and Edward Jeong in women's and men's individual poomsae, respectively.
Also competing over the final three days were Amanda Bluford, George El-Chemali, Matthew Klein and Abdul Rahman in the individual divisions, as well as Alejandro Bravo, Charles Buset, El-Chemali and Connor Wilson in the male team sparring division.
Head of Team and USA National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) president Dan Chuang noted, "I'm grateful for the efforts our staff and so impressed by the cohesiveness and drive of our athletes at this incredibly high level event. Their team-first approach enabled them to weather the highs and lows of competition and finish on a strong note. Thank you also to all of the USA Team staff as well as the Games organizing committee for creating a first rate experience for our team."
Added Head Sparring Coach Richard Lee, "It was a honor and a pleasure to coach the USA Team. This was a special group of selfless athletes and staff who watched out and cheered for one another. The results are some of the best we’ve ever had at a SWUG event for taekwondo, but the bonds and friendships that were made will continue to live on. Personally, I’m truly grateful for this opportunity.”
The aforementioned women's team of Gorka, Lewis, Salas and Weber had an outstanding run to the medal rounds on the final day of competition on July 13. Led with contributions from all four athletes, but especially heavy minutes from Lewis, the team advanced over Chile, 24-8, in the round of 16 and Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals, 35-11, before losing a tightly-contested match to powerhouse Korea in the semifinals by the score of 19-15 in the mostly tag-team format. The men's team of Bravo, Buset, El-Chemali and Wilson also had a strong run, advancing over Kazakhstan, 28-16, in the round of 16 before falling to Malaysia, 35-13, just one round short of the medals.
One day prior on July 12, the sixth day of competition, El-Chemali (-63kg) fought Jack Francois (NZL) in the round of 16, winning 11-2, before falling to Mertcan Dolmaci (TUR), 11-7, in the quarterfinals at his second Games. Rahman fell 25-12 to Mikolaj Szaferski (POL), and Weber (-53kg) lost 23-3 to Viktoriia Sabko (UKR).
On July 11, the fifth day of taekwondo competition, Bluford (-62kg) clashed with Sofia Cruz (POR) in her initial round. After allowing the first two points, Bluford scored 10 unanswered, to earn the 10-2 win. Bluford’s Round of 16 contest against Jiwon Kim (KOR) had her ahead 3-2 after the 1st round. She was unable to hold the lead and lost 9-5.
Gorka (-73kg) sparred Franchesca Avaria Ramirez (CHI). The match concluded with Gorka down 22-17 in a tight match that came down to the final seconds. Klein’s (-74kg) draw had him sparring Uladzislau Halizin (BLR). He was able to score an early head kick and exhibited great determination, but lost 22-4.
Supporting the athletes throughout the compeition were NCTA President and Head of Team Dan Chuang (Cambridge, Mass.), Director Sung C. Kim (Rochester, N.Y.), Manager, Justin Faiferlick (Fort Dodge, Iowa), Doctor Sherri Lashomb (Lewiston, N.Y.), Head Poomsae Coach Huy Nguyen (San Jose, Calif.), Poomsae Coach Haksung Kim (Irvine, Calif.), Head Sparring Coach Richard Lee (Los Angeles, Calif.), Sparring Coach Dongyoung Kim (Newark, Calif.), Sparring Coach Toby Oliver (Fort Myers, Fla.) and Sparring Coach Adrian Zambrano (Sylmar, Calif.).
Over 9,000 athletes and staff representing over 160 countries were represented at the 30th Universiade. The U.S. was the second-largest delegation with 420 participants competing in 18 sports. Full results can be found at: https://www.fisu.net/sport-events/summer-universiades-events/30th-summer-universiade.