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It was elation at the Para-Taekwondo for Janine Watson claimed bronze in her first, and last, match in the Taekwondo at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

It was an emphatic victory in the final match of the day, beating her highly fancied opponent 63-0.

With the classification system ruling players with neurological disorders out of future tournaments, Watson ensured she didn’t waste her opportunity by giving everything she had in the last of the days four bouts.

“It is just finally a dream come true,” said Watson of her achievement.

“To even get here was a challenge for me and to come away with a medal, it shows that you just don’t give up, and after hard work, lots of effort from my team we’ve got some rewards which is really good to see.

“It was just taking that deep breath and just enjoying it.”

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On the reclassification process, it was clear Watson knew she had to make an impact in Para-Taekwondo now.

“This is my one and only shot, tomorrow the classification changes for Kyorugi and neurological impairments are no longer eligible to compete so I gave it my absolute all knowing that this was my last shot so its for me, soaking up that atmosphere and enjoying the moment.”

Coming into the tournament ranked No. 9 in the world, Watson stumbled in her first match up of the day against Morocco’s Rajae Akermach, who started with a flurry of kicks in the opening 2 mins, scoring 4 points to Watson’s zero.

After the break Watson started her comeback scoring 2 points for a body kick and gaining 1 for a penalty. But Akermach still out scored her getting two 2 points body kicks in and taking the lead 8-3 heading into the third and final round.

Watson was able to score 2 points in the final round and take a 1 point penalty but it wasn’t enough to win the match with the Moroccan winning 8-6.

This sent her through to the repechage rounds where she faced Turkey’s Seyma Emeksiz Bacaksiz in the repechage quarterfinal.

This second fight was a non-contest, with Watson bouncing back in strong fashion. She raced to a 14-0 lead in the first round and again stepped up a gear in the second round scoring another 22 points to 2 and forcing the referee to call the match early, awarding the win to Watson 36-2.

It was a clinical performance from Watson and one that her coach, Ben Hartmann, was expecting of her in this tournament.

The repechage semi final saw her up against Japan’s Shoko Ota, the world No. 10, after she progressed through the repechage quarters following the withdrawal of France’s Laura Schiel, the world no. 4.

While expectations of Ota’s capabilities were high, ultimately she didn’t provide much of a contest for Watson who was dominant from the outset taking the rounds 10-6, 10-6, 12-0 to progress to the Bronze Medal match against Ukranian Yuliya Lypetska and ultimately take the bronze.

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Coach Ben Hartmann, who has been by Watson’s side for a decade, was thrilled to see her place on the podium.

“To be honest, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

“To debut Para-Taekwondo here at the Paralympics for the first time and for Janine to win a bronze medal she should be very proud of herself.”

With the Para-Taekwondo format awarding two bronze medals, the first won by world no. 1 Amy Truesdale, Watson starts and finishes the sport having secured her place on the podium, and in the hearts of Australians.

Match One – Round of 16
(AUS) Janine Watson 0 3 3 (6)
(MAR) Rajae Akermach 4 4 0 (8)
Match Two (Repechage QF)
(AUS) Janine Watson 14 22 (36)* *Win by Referee Stops Competition
(TUR) Seyma Emeksiz Bacaksiz 0 2 (2)
Match Three (Repechage SF)
(AUS) Janine Watson 10 10 12 (32)
(JPN) Shoko Ota 6 6 0 (12)
Match Four (Bronze Medal Match)
(AUS) Janine Watson 26 21 16 (63)
(UKR) Yuliya Lypetska 0 0 0 (0)

By: Jodie Hawkins, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 4 September 2021