June 27th marked the final day of competitions at muaythai’s debut at the European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023. After an intense round of preliminary and semi-final matches and nail-biting finishes, athletes from all over Europe have been crowned champions in their respective weight classes. The crowd erupted with cheers as each medallist was presented on the podium for the medal ceremonies.
The European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 was an electrifying week-long celebration of muaythai, the IOC recognised martial art and combat sport. The stadium was packed to the last seat with long queues outside the stadium, and the VIP section filled with representatives from the European Olympic Committee, other participating sports, H.E. Mrs. Urasa Mongkolnavin, the Ambassador of Thailand to Poland and many more.
The entire event was televised live around the world and muaythai was billed as one of the most popular sports at the Games, not only making their debut but showcasing that the EOC made the right decision.
The event opened with the finals of the Men’s 60KG division between Belgian Gianny De Leu and Sercan Koc from Turkiye. Turkiye, one of the powerhouses of muaythai faced off against the former IFMA Youth World Champion and it was a fight that put the fans at the edge of their seats, with the Youth World Champion securing the first muaythai gold medal in the history of the European Games for Belgium and what a proud day it was for this young athlete and Belgium.
The second match was between muaythai superstar Igor Liubchenko from Ukraine, the current IFMA World Champion, World Games Champion, facing off against home hero Oskar Siegert. The stadium erupted and Oskar gave it all, but the experience and technical advantage of Igor Liubchecko made him the 2023 European Games champion and the fair Polish crowd applauded both athletes.
The first female title fight saw Turkish World Champion Turan Gulistan taking on the next Polish finalist Roksana Dargiel. And the female athletes showed again why they are more than equal to their male counterparts, 3 rounds of 8 limbs with the Polish athlete going toe to toe with the World Champion, losing in a very close decision, and wining the respect of the muaythai world.
The second female fight of the day saw Polish Martyna Kiercztnska face off with Belgian former youth World Champion Axana Depypere in another thrilling match, and with the support of an enthusiastic Polish audience, Martyna took the gold for the home country, a proud moment for the athlete, Poland and the European Games.
The next male match in the 71KG division saw the World Champion from Ukraine Yefimenko square off with Portugal’s Goncalo Noites. Portugal had a huge delegation of fans, press and NOC representative, and Goncalo put in an outstanding performance, but it was the reigning World Champion that too the win by close decision. Congratulations to both athletes for their great sportsmanship.
Ukraine, which was one of the outstanding teams yet again had another finalist, the current European Champion Yehor Skurikhin facing Artion Livdari from Moldova. This was one of the most outstanding fights of the event with Livdari putting in the performance of a lifetime to win the first ever gold medal in muaythai for Moldova.
In the female 57KG division, it was muaythai super star and multiple World Champion Patricia Axling from Sweden taking on Portuguese champion Mathilde De Melo who had an amazing run to the final. Axling left nothing to chance, displaying why Sweden is one of the leading muaythai countries, but respect to the young Portuguese athlete. Sweden, wining their first gold in muaythai at the Games.
The next women’s fight in the 60KG division was a memorable affair with the current champions Kubra Kokakus from Turkiye taking on former youth champion Astrid Grents from Estonia. It was not only a stand off between the two amazing athletes but also the Sport Ministries and Olympic Committees from both countries. Grents showed that she was there to make history for herself, and her country and she did it, silencing the huge Turkish delegation by winning the first muaythai gold medal for Estonia.
In the final men’s bout in the 91KG division, which every qualification bout was better than the one before, it came down to the current IFMA and World Games champion from Ukraine Oleh Priymachov going up against Enrico Pellegrino Pelligri from Italy who came into the match as the underdog. Nevertheless, from the opening bell, he put the fight on the current world champion and the audience witnessed muaythai at its best. But in the final round Priymachov proved to be the stronger athlete.
The final match of the Muaythai competition saw the women’s 63.5 KG division between Bediha Tacyildiz against Tereza Stechova from Czech Republic. Both athletes had very hard qualification bouts but showcased by muaythai is one of the most skilful and technically demanding combat sports in the world from the opening to the final bell. It was muaythai at its best ending in a close decision and the final gold medal went to Turkiye in what can be described as a super final event and muaythai was praised from everyone for bringing the traditional aspect combining one of the most spectacular ring sports.
Congratulations to all that ended up on the podium, but in muaythai there are no losers, everyone is a winner for being part of history, the European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023.
It has certainly been an unforgettable experience for both competitors and spectators alike, with unforgettable performances from some truly remarkable athletes. With these games now behind us, we look forward to what lies ahead in future muaythai competitions across Europe.