The Para Taekwondo Open European Championships will see fighters go for automatic qualification for the sport’s Paralympic at Tokyo 2020 – and Italy’s Antonino Bossolo is hoping the home crowd will give him an extra boost when competition begins Thursday in Bari.
Last year, Bossolo stunned Mongolia’s No. 1-ranked Bolor-Erdene Ganbat on the way to capturing his first European title. He may need to repeat the feat in order to avoid next year’s last-chance, winner-take-all continental qualifier.
In Bari, the top four fighters in each K44 division and top two fighters in each K43 division earn qualification spots for their countries.
Bossolo needs to better Santana’s result
All eyes will be on Bossolo as he tries to move into the top four in the up to 61kg K44 division.
The Italian fighter finds himself trailing Spain’s Aythami Santana Santana by seven points in the rankings, in part due to two early-season losses to his Spanish rival. He finished second in his last three tournaments, including close losses to Ganbat at the Paralympic test event and Turkey’s Ali Can Ozcan at the Asian Open Championships.
As countries can only qualify one fighter per division, Turkey will have to decide whether to send Ozcan (No. 4) or Mahmut Bozteke (No. 3), making the results in Italy next week important for both fighters.
Brazil’s Nathan Torquato is also in the mix. He will need to add a 2019 European Open Championship to his Parapan Am Games, African, and US Open championships for any chance to qualify directly.
Battle in the women’s over 58kg K44
With only Great Britain’s top-ranked Amy Truesdale and Brazilian world champion Debora Menezes having wrapped up qualification spots, the women’s over 58kg K44 bracket will be competitive, with four more still up for the taking.
France’s Laura Schiel is in the driver’s seat to claim one of them, while Morocco’s former world champion Rajae Akermach likely needs to win gold to automatically qualify.
Bush needs to get back top
It was a wonderful start to the year for Great Britain’s Matt Bush, who became the first British male to ever win a World Championship in taekwondo. He will need to finish the year the way he started it if the reigning world champion hopes to qualify through the rankings.
While there are still three qualification spots still up for grabs in his over 75kg K44 division, there are four European fighters ahead of him in the rankings, including former world champions Ivan Mikulic (Croatia) and Zainutdin Ataev (Russia).
Li looks to cap incredible year
In the women’s up to 58kg division, China’s world champion Yujie Li looks to cap an incredible year by going from unranked to world champion to Paralympic qualification. She will need to hold off Russia’s Ayshat Ramazanova and the USA’s Brianna Salinaro.
Thailand’s Khwansuda Phuangkitcha will need a European Open win to qualify for the Paralympics. She will need to better Mexico’s Claudia Romero in the women’s up to 49kg K44 division. Romero nearly qualified last month, before dropping the Parapan Am final to hometown favourite Leonor Espinosa Carranza.