Ruth Gbagbi, a name synonymous with excellence in Ivory Coast’s taekwondo, has etched an indelible mark on the sport’s legacy. Her journey has been nothing short of extraordinary, marked by triumphs on the Olympic stage, the clinching of a world title, and unwavering contributions to the sport she passionately loves. Gbagbi’s distinctive fighting style, highlighted by her formidable “jump reverse turning kick,” not only earned her accolades but also garnered admiration from the global taekwondo community.
Gbagbi’s Abilities: A Palette of Techniques
Philippe Bouedo, a highly experienced taekwondo fighter, coach, and official, served as World Taekwondo’s technical delegate at the Tokyo 2020 Games. He praised Ruth’s abilities, stating, “Ruth is very powerful and very creative. She has a full palette of techniques.” Despite Gbagbi modestly describing herself as “a fighter,” her actions on the mat reveal a fearless approach to competition.
Olympic Triumph in Rio
Gbagbi’s Olympic journey began in Rio 2016, where she secured her first bronze medal on the same night her compatriot, Cheick Sallah Cissé, clinched gold. Her victory over Azerbaijan’s Farida Azizova in the women’s 67-kilogram category showcased her prowess and determination.
World Champion in 2017
The following year, Gbagbi elevated her status by claiming the World Taekwondo title in Muju, South Korea. In the final, she defeated Iran’s Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin with a convincing score of 19-9. Philippe Bouedo celebrated her dynamic style, stating, “She is the perfect aspect of taekwondo – we want to show people how exciting the game is. She has no limits.”
Early Beginnings and Continued Success
Gbagbi’s journey in taekwondo commenced at the age of eight. Inspired by her penchant for street fighting, her mother wisely suggested she try taekwondo. The decision proved to be life-changing, as Gbagbi has since become a world champion, validating her mother’s advice. In Tokyo 2020, she added another Olympic medal to her collection, securing a 12-8 victory over Brazil’s Milena Titoneli.
UNESCO Ambassador for the Culture of Peace
In 2021, Ruth Gbagbi was honored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an ambassador for the culture of peace. This recognition highlighted her exceptional contribution to promoting peace and unity through her achievements in taekwondo. Gbagbi expressed her gratitude, considering it an “honor.”
Ongoing Success in 2022
Gbagbi’s success shows no signs of slowing down. In September 2022, she clinched the women’s under-67kg gold at the Paris World Taekwondo Grand Prix. Her victory against the emerging South Korean athlete Min-Seo Nam marked her fourth Grand Prix gold in her illustrious career.
The Pursuit of Gold in Paris 2024
While Gbagbi is celebrated as a national heroine, one medal has eluded her – Olympic gold. Unsatisfied with her two bronze medals from Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, she has set her sights on the Paris 2024 Olympics. Her determination is unwavering as she declares, “I will give my all to go to Paris 2024 and win gold.”
Ruth Gbagbi continues to be a source of inspiration for aspiring taekwondo athletes worldwide. Her remarkable talent, relentless spirit, and commitment to the sport make her a true trailblazer, leaving an enduring legacy in Ivory Coast’s taekwondo history. As she embarks on the journey towards Paris 2024, the world eagerly awaits to witness the next chapter in the remarkable career of this taekwondo icon.