Tatarstan athlete to compete in World Taekwondo Championships

Russia is back to international sport

The World Taekwondo Championships will take place in the capital of Azerbaijan Baku from 29 May to 6 June. This is the first international competition with athletes from Russia and Belarus competing under the aegis of the international federation not controlled by Russia citizens.

Comeback a year later

World Taekwondo — the international taekwondo federation — banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competitions in early March 2022 until late March 2023. And as strange as it might sound today, it returned representatives of both countries, and the world championships in Baku will be the first tournament where our athletes will compete in an Olympic sport that is not controlled by Russians like in boxing and in non-Olympic sports — sambo and chess. Both first President of the international taekwondo federation Kim Un-yong and current President Choue Chung-won are South Korean citizens.

It might seem that there is no logic in returning our taekwondo athletes. But there are nuances here. Firstly, Russians already competed at the world taekwondo championships, moreover, they did it under their flag, and this happened at the 26th World Military Championships, which took place last November in Iran.

Team Russia was represented by a very strong roster, including two Olympic champions Vladislav Larin and Maxim Khramtsov. Athletes from 10 countries including Spain, Slovenia, which cannot be named friendly to Russia, participated in the competition. Secondly, the management of World Taekwondo can be concerned because taekwondo is one of the most dissociated Olympic sports. It is hard to realise for those who, for instance, have never practised karate-do and doesn’t understand that it has tens of styles, only professionals are privy to their difference. So as strange as it might sound, taekwondo too has several styles and much more federations each of whom holds its own championships. World Taekwondo is recognised by the IOC, and thanks to this it governs everybody but wouldn’t like to lose its members.

The more federations, the messier

Meanwhile, there is a rival in the person of GTF (Global Taekwondo Federation) whose president is Sergiu Balan from Moldova, the vice president is Russian Damir Khalilov, a citizen of Kazan. This is why the 2016 World Championships as well as the 2019 European Championship were held in Kazan. The World Cup, an interim competition between the 2022 world championship in Bulgaria and the 2023 world championship in Kyrgyzstan took place in the capital of Tatarstan last autumn.

Since almost all the management of the international federation is represented by former USSR countries — Moldova, Russia as well as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine was in too but its representative left the organisation after the start of the special military operation.

By the way, taekwondo at the Global Taekwondo Federation is visually different from the habitual Olympic style because the arms are actively involved in it, and in general resembles rather kick-boxing, but wrestlers dress kimono that bear the Korean name dobok. Neither are there protectors that are habitual for Olympic taekwondo, however, there are gloves.

Also, there is the ITF, International Taekwon-Do Federation, that was also chaired by two Koreans, but from its northern part, from the DPRK both Choi Hong Hi and current Choi jung Hwa, and Russia is represented in the federation by Russian Sports University’s Rector Sergey Seyranov. By the way, Kazan hosted the Russian nationals in this taekwondo version in 2021. The previous 21st world championships that was in Bolgaria in 2019 is expected to take place in Kazakhstan this year, and who could impede the best taekwondo athletes from Russia and Belarus from performing there. Or in Kyrgyzstan in the GTF World Championship.

Also, there is another version of the ITF, to be frank, the most unclear for the author. Lazos Tsilfidis is the president of the federation in Russia, it has even its own Putin, Igor Putin, the chairman of the Supervisory Board, businessman and the Russian president’s cousin Igor Putin’s son. In other words, he is a nephew.

President of the federation Tsilfidis was born in Greece, moved to Russia where he started doing taekwondo and created his organisation after a schism in the international federation, thus he continues the “schism” in the history of development of this type of combat.

This historical hindsight when international taekwondo federations constantly divided, perhaps, influenced the decision of World Taekwondo to return Russians and Belarusians to international competitions not to create new subdivisions.

The 2016 World Championships as well as the 2019 European Championship were held in Kazan. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov/

Any hope for the “refugee team”?

If using a conspiracy theory, we can assume that the invitation of Russians and Belarusians was discussed with the IOC that had been very interested in the history of development of refugee teams. There were two female taekwondo athletes during the latest Olympics in Tokyo that escaped from Iran and competed for Germany (Kimiya Alizade) and the Netherlands (Dina Puruines). It looks to be a good plan to return athletes to international competitions, lure with the Olympic prospects and try to create schism in the country’s national team. Russian athletes have recently expressed their desire to change citizenship (swimmers Anastasia Kirpichnikova and Mark Nikolayev, rowers Nikolay Pimenov and Anna Prakaten, Sofia Prosvirnova from short track), and taekwondo is such a sport where there are enough “turncoats.”

For instance, it is one of the leaders of team Azerbaijan, the host of the World Championships, Milad Harchegani, an Olympic bronze medallist, two-time world championship who grew up in Iran. However, he didn’t win anything serious for Iran performing there until he turned 24. The transition to the national team of Azerbaijan was caused by the necessity to compete at the 1st European Games, quite questionable competition, but both Azerbaijan and Belarus, which hosted the European Games in 2019, prepared very carefully. Earlier, Azerbaijan had already invited foreigners to its national teams (this practice was exercised in women’s field hockey, then in women’s volleyball, men’s basketball). But here the country got as stronger as possible in all sports. Harchegani joined the national team in 2015 but competed for Iran earlier that year in an international tournament. This happened after his coach Reza Mehmandoust joined team Azerbaijan.

Of course, here we should add that not only these two people left Iran but also, for example, Mekhdi Khodakbakhshi who performed for his homeland’s national team before 2019 and now became the 2022 world champion for Serbia. Curiously, he lost precisely to Harchegani at the 2016 Olympics.

An Olympic bronze from Rio, two victories at world championships made Milad Harchegani who is called Beigi in Azerbaijan a favourite of the Olympics in Tokyo but he got a leg injury there and lost in a quarterfinal.

It looks to be a good plan to return athletes to international competitions, lure with the Olympic prospects and try to create schism in the country’s national team. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov/

Tatarstan athlete on national team

By the way, Kazan hosted the 2018 European Championship where local fans were happy for Russian Maxim Kramtsov’s gold. So Beigi (Harchegani) and Moldovan... Aron Cook became medallist. In fact, Cook is English who had a grouch on his federation because it chose his rival and age mate Lutalo Muhammad before the 2012 Olympics at home.

Rafael Kamalov from Chelny will participate in the World Championships in Baku. He is familiar with schism in his favourite sport first-hand because he started in the ITF and switched to the Olympic WTF only at the age of 15. He was a medallist of a summer Universiade, European champion and won the World Military Championship, but earlier, in 2019.

Olympic champions Larin and Khramtsov, silver medallist Tatiana Minina, bronze medallist Mikhail Artamonov, European junior champions Liliya Khuzina, Kristina Adebaio, a student of the university Sergey Seyranov rules, will be among other competitors of the world championships. Kristina comes from a sports family because her father and current coach Daniel Adebaio did taekwondo.

Curiously, our friends Belarusians have an exotic athlete too, one of the country’s strongest taekwondo wrestlers Arman-Marshall Silla.

Jaudat Abdullin

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The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.