Today’s results proved that when you give young athletes a chance, they really take it as young students stepped up against more experienced opponents and claimed a place in the semi-finals and even finals in some cases. It’s been the most exciting part of this tournament, as the students take hold of this ancient sport and make it their own.
The muaythai scene in Lebanon has undergone a transformation in the last few years, and today’s performance from Ali Chouchair cemented that at 75kgs. Powerful body-kicks and a flurry of punches gave him a convincing him over Hungary’s Mark Andras Hegedus. He admitted afterwards that he surprised himself with the win, but isn’t that the joy of sport – you just never know what you can do, until you try.
In the women’s division at 54kgs, Andra Aho (Estonia) faced Apinya Butrduang from Thailand. She won with an impressive display of why the Teep is so loved by muaythai fans, closing down the ring. And in the other bout Laura de Blas (Spain) met Russia’s Polina Matyushiwa, winning well also. It will certainly be a final too look forward to on Sunday.
This theme held true even in the bigger teams like Russia where some of the athletes are competing internationally for the first time. Both Aleksei Fedotov and Vitalii Filippov are through to the next round, and laying down a marker for a place on senior teams with their performances here – as did some others on their team earlier in the week.
The Kazakh students are becoming a crowd favourite with their barnstorming performances. Following wins today, they now have four athletes in semi-finals tomorrow, and another two already qualified for the finals at the weekend. Ospan Yerkhnat earned his place on the list today, defeating Rittichai Chaipat (Thailand) 30 points to 27.
Bekzhan Matysaev (Kyrgyzstan) is also through to the final on Saturday, where he meets Thailand’s Kittisak Suksanguan.
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