Despite copping an ankle injury on his way to the semifinal, Beijing Olympics bronze medalist, Chika Chukwumerije returned to winning ways to settle for bronze medal alongside his compatriots, Sunday Onofe and Joy Ekhator at the African Senior Taekwondo Championships held in Tunisia.
The five-man team claimed three medals as well as garnered over 60.48 points in total to improve their world rating.
140 athletes from 18 African countries took part in three-day tournament, which served as an avenue for athletes to gain crucial word ranking points. This plays a key role for Rio 2016 Olympics qualification.
The El Complex De Menza Arena in Tunis hosted the competition with three-time Olympian, Chika Chukwumerije defying the massive home supports his opponent – Tunisia’s Abdelrahim Abidi got to win his first fight at 10-3.
He however copped an ankle injury during the fight but he was able to hold sway to win the encounter.
Aware of what is ahead of him when the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)-organised Grand Prix Olympics series holding in China, Chukwumerije had to withdraw from the semifinal tie to settle for points, which also earned him 14.40 points in world rating.
To also pick bronze medal, Onofe floored Hama Alzouma of Niger Republic in the round of 16, beat Fiston Lumu Tshimanga of Democratic Republic of Congo in the quarterfinals, before losing to number one seed in -80kg, Issam Chernoubi of Morocco (8 – 5).
Ekhator first opponent was Sondess of Tunisia but the home girl pulled out of the competition paving the way for Ekhator to meet with Nour Ahmed Hussein Abdelsalem of Egypt, where she lost (10 – 6) but she still won a bronze medal to her credit.
All Africa Games gold medalist, Jamilu Mohammed put up a disappointing performance against Libya’s Yousef Saleh to lose (12 – 2), while captain Uche Chukwumerije defeated Remy Alazoula of Democratic Republic of Congo (4 – 2) in the round of 16, before losing to the number one seed in the -87kg category, Yassine of Turkey in the quarterfinal.
For reaching the quarterfinals, Uche and Mohammed gained 8.64 World and Olympic ranking points each, while the trio of Chika Chukwumerije, Onofe and Ekhator garnered 14.40 World and Olympic ranking points.
From points gained, the entire t can be assured of moving up the world ranking.
Uche who has picked up a massive 21 points from three tournaments in the past six weeks is expected to be in top 20 when the global rankings are released in June.
Using the Olympic ranking system, the top six athletes qualify automatically for the Rio 2016 Olympics, without having to undergo the regular qualifying process.
The trip to Tunisia was part sponsored by Zuma Energy Limited, following an appeal made by Chika Chukwumerije Sports Foundation (CCSF) to support taekwondo development in Nigeria, while the athletes privately raised the rest of the funds.