Skylar Park collects taekwondo bronze for Canada at season-ending Grand Prix final

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Winnipeg’s Skylar Park earned a taekwondo bronze medal to finish her season on Saturday at the world Grand Prix Final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Facing Morocco’s Nada Laaraj in a 57-kilogram match, Park scored a headshot to take the first round and maintained an aggressive approach throughout the second for a 2-0 victory.

The third-seeded Park received a bye through the round of 16 and advanced to the semifinals with a 2-0 quarter-final win over Poland’s Patrycja Adamkiewicz. Park then dropped a 2-0 decision in a close fight against Turkey’s Hatice Kubra Ilgun.

“Our top athletes showed a lot of determination in their matches and fought extremely well,” Canada high performance director Dr. Allan Wrigley told Taekwondo Canada. “Skylar Park finishing with a bronze and her first Grand Prix Final medal has capped off what has been a tremendous season for her.”

In November, Park was named best female athlete at the Pan American Taekwondo Union (PATU) gala dinner in Guadalajara, Mexico before she missed qualifying for the medal rounds at the world championships in the same city.

Last May, Park earned her third title at the Pan Am Championships in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where she was joined on the medal podium by her brothers Tae-Ku and Braven, who earned bronze in the under-74 kg and under-63 kg divisions, respectively.

Skylar also claimed silver at the Pan Am Open after moving to the under-62 kg bracket.

2019 Pan Am silver

In the summer of 2021, Park vowed to rebound after losing her Olympic quarter-final match in Tokyo.

“The Olympics obviously weren’t the results that I wanted and to come back to a championship and kind of be able to come out on top again, it’s definitely good,” Park told the Winnipeg Free Press last spring. “It helps my confidence moving forward into this next cycle and as we continue on.”

Park had succeeded at previous major events big events previously, capturing silver at the 2019 Pan Am Games and gold at the Pan Am taekwondo championships.

For the two-day event in Riyadh, the top 16 athletes across four men’s and women’s weight classes were invited. In all, 128 athletes from 40 countries competed for medals and critical Olympic ranking points towards Paris in 2024.

Besides Park, Ashley Kraayeveld (Mississauga, Ont.) and Nicholas Hoefling (Campbellville, Ont.) were in action. Kraayeveld came up short in the round of 16 against Spain’s Cecilia Castro Burgos in the 67 kg division. Hoefling lost a difficult round of 16 match against the eventual men’s 58 kg champion Jun Jang of Korea.

“With the Grand Prix Final just a few weeks after the world championships, it really challenged our coaches and athletes to reset and prepare to perform at their best again,” Wrigley said.

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