ANTAYLYA, Turkey (Taekwondo Canada)—Canada’s Anthony Capello had the nation on his shoulders and delivered a silver medal at the World Para Taekwondo Championships in Antalya, Turkey on Wednesday.
Ranked number three in the world, the lone Canadian in the event battled through one of the toughest paths to the finals of the men’s lightweight 61kg weight class, before dropping a hard-fought final match to France’s Bopha Kong, who was the top-ranked fighter in the division.
“It was unreal. I came in here ready. I did all the planning I could possibly do, but you can never foresee what will happen and I blew myself away. I’m very happy,” said Capello after being on the short end of a 34-9 decision.
It was the 29-year-old Montrealer’s second World Para Taekwondo Championship medal. He earned a bronze medal in 2017 in his first trip to the premiere international para taekwondo dance where he was dropped by the Frenchman Kong as well.
A two-time Canadian champion, Capello knocked off an athlete from China, 25-15 in his opening match before taking on one of the rising stars in the sport – Japan’s Kenta Awatari – in the second round. Capello kept his golden hopes alive after finishing on the bright side of a 25-16 second-round decision.
“My favourite fight was against Japan (Kenta Awatari). We met twice before. He is a fantastic athlete, and fights well,” said Capello. But he’s a very good, respectable guy and every time I fight him, he gives me good energy. It was great. We have a nice little rivalry as well.
Capello punched his ticket to the gold medal round after a huge 15-13 nail biter win over Spain’s Alejandro Alvarez in the semifinals.
In addition to the silver medal, Capello was also presented with the MVP award for his standout performance at the event.
“That was unreal. I didn’t expect it at all,” said Capello. “I was just taking some pictures with my coach and then I was told to get on stage so that was just fantastic.”
The Canuck not only captured the world’s attention, but also impressed coach Raymond Mourad, who is a 13-time national champion himself.
“He fought with more experience than our last world championships and had a plan for every fight,” said Mourad. “The final match didn’t happen the way we wanted, but things happen for a reason. I think Anthony will learn from his last match, but overall, I’m very proud of him. He was very fast, and people were amazed with his speed and power. This was a great performance.”
Capello’s 61kg weight class is one of 12 divisions selected to participate in Para taekwondo’s Paralympic debut at the 2020 Games in Tokyo. The newest Paralympic sport has been experiencing rapid growth over the last two three years. With nearly 70 nations hitting the mat at the 2019 World Championships, it is nearly double the amount of countries from the last world championships.