Janine Watson enters an elite class of athletes that can call herself a medallist in her sport’s Paralympic debut after winning bronze in the Taekwondo Women’s K44 +58kg event with an overwhelming victory over the Ukraine’s Yuliya Lypetska (63-0).
Already a three-time World Para Champion for P34 Poomsae, Watson entered the Paralympics with a goal – to win Australia’s first-ever medal in taekwondo at the Paralympics.
After her first bout, that goal looked to be in danger as she went down 8-6 to Morocco’s Rajae Akermach. However, she had the opportunity to move through the Repechage rounds for the chance to win one of two bronze medals.
The 40-year-old faced Turkey’s Seyma Emeksiz Bacaksiz in the repechage quarter-final, Watson led 14-0 after the first round and only dominated further in the second to lead 36-2 before the referee stopped the contest and declared the Australian the winner.
She faced Japan’s Shoko Ota next needing a win to go into the Bronze Medal Bout. It was by no means as dominant of a performance as the first repechage, leading 10-6 following the first round but extended her lead in the second round to 20-12 and didn’t let Ota score a point in the third round to finish the bout 32-12 up.
Finally was Yuliya Lypetska who had lost her semi-final earlier in the day to Brazil’s Débora Menezes 10-55.
From the first round, Watson was in control, leading 26-0 and she built on that lead scoring another 21 points in the second round and 17 more in the third and final round to win 63-0, securing the bronze medal.
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Diagnosed with MS at 25, Watson took up taekwondo and within nine months she won her first national championship.
In 2018 she took several years off from sparring, continuing in the Poomsae (pattern) competition until it was announced that taekwondo would be included in the Paralympic programme and she returned to sparring competition.
Taekwondo wasn’t the only sport Watson took up and excelled at. She quickly rose up the ranks of Wheelchair Singles Tennis, winning four consecutive Australian Singles Titles between 2016 and 2019, and was the highest-ranked Australian Wheelchair Singles tennis player at the time.
Great Britain’s Amy Truesdale also won bronze in her own bronze medal match, meanwhile, Uzbekistan’s Guljonoy Naimova beat Brazil’s Debora Bezerra de Menezes to win gold.
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