75kgs podium with Vital Hurkou, gold and Vasyl Sorokin Ukraine and Ivan Grigorevich Russia
75kgs muaythai podium with Vital Hurkou, gold and Vasyl Sorokin Ukraine and Ivan Grigorevich Russia

One year ago this week muaythai athletes from 37 countries made history by becoming the first to take part at The World Games when muaythai made its debut under IFMA. They took home medals, but also new friendships and great memories. Some of them are feeling quite nostalgic this week, read on to see what they think.

Vital Hurkou (Belarus) won gold in the 75kg men’s division. He says when he heard about muaythai going to The World Games he really wanted to go as he’d seen athletes in other sports having this opportunity.

He says: “This was a really big deal for me, it was exciting because I understood this is part of growing the sport. It was very different being there – you know I’ve given half my life now to muaythai, I started when I just 15 so for me this was my Olympics.

“Everyone there was at a high level, every fighter had to qualify so there were no easy fights, I knew everyone had been selected. We have IFMA championships every year, but this is just once every four years and I travelled a hard road to get there.”

He said many athletes his age – 33 – have retired from competition but because he stayed on and kept winning, he had this bonus opportunity.

Vital says: “‘Ït was a big event for me, for my coach and my federation, and for people who know about muaythai, it was a big deal for us. Winning gold was a good thing for me, I really felt different inside about compared to other wins  – I understood I was making history for Belarus muaythai.”

Silver for Gia Winberg, gold for Svetlana Vinnikova and bronze to Nili Block

Gia Winberg won silver in the 60kgs women’s divisions for Finland.

She says: Ït was an amazing experience. At the hotel and at the venue, there was a really great and united atmosphere. I made it all the way to the finals, but I couldn’t just make the final win for winning the Championship.”  And of course she added she’s already looking forward to the next The World Games in Birmingham in 2021, only three years away now.

Ali Zarinfar takes silver , gold for Igor Liubchenko and bronze to Oskar Siegert

Ali Zarinfar, won silver in the 63.5kg division for IR Iran.

He says he only has positive memories of his time, even though he was disappointed at the time to miss out on gold in the final. He said: Ï really thank everyone who supported me, and brought me to Wroclaw. It was a totally new experience for me.

He says: I really tried for the gold, and I hope people respect that. For me it was a great show to be part of, in Iran we see this as second only to the Olympic Games.”

Silver for Apasara, Gold to Bui Yen Ly and Bronze to Janet Todd

Apasara Koson, won silver in the 51kg women’s division for Thailand.

She says: I feel it was a great honor to be the first and only one female muaythai athlete from Thailand who joined in this competition. It was so exciting. I met athletes from all over the world in Poland.”

Apasara was the youngest in the muaythai contingent – she only joined the senior ranks in 2017 having won gold at Youth level in 2016. She says being in Wroclaw really opened her eyes to the possibilities she has now as a top-level athlete.

She says: “As with all sport games, we were faced with difficulties during the game and there will be both the winner and the loser, however; I always found the beauty in those competitions –  the spirit of sportsmanship, the respect of others as well as borderless friendship among athletes.”

IFMA general secretary Stephan Fox said for him the highlight was seeing the Openig ceremony. He says: “It might sound like a cliche but it was such a great feeling to see muaythai listed among those sports, and realise the young athletes we work with now have this amazing opportunity, something older athletes could only dream about. The spirit of The World Games is friendship through sport and we definitely experienced that in Wroclaw.”

Watch back the excitement of the muaythai finals at The World Games on The Olympic Channel this week!

Or see full muaythai results on The World Games 2017 website.