Canadian taekwondo athletes ready for Pan American qualifiers. PATU

Three of Taekwondo Canada's top athletes will compete against some of the continent's best at the Pan American Qualifying Tournament for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from 9-10 April.

The Continental Qualification Tournament is an opportunity for Taekwondo Canada to earn a maximum of two men's and one additional women's quota spot for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games for each athlete who finishes in the top two in their respective divisions. 

The successful Canadian athletes will join Winnipeg's Skylar Park, who has already earned a quota spot for Canada through her World Taekwondo Olympic ranking and will be competing in her second Olympic Games. 

Josipa Kafadar, Braven Park and Marc-André Bergeron earned the opportunity to compete in the Qualifying Tournament by winning their divisions at Taekwondo Canada's Pre-Qualification Tournament in Toronto in November 2023. At the conclusion of the tournament, High Performance Director Dr Alan Wrigley reviewed and evaluated all division winners and said of the process. 

"We created the Pre-Qualification Tournament and review process with the intention of earning as many Olympic quota spots as possible. It was not an easy decision, as Canada is competitive in a number of divisions, but Josipa, Braven and Marc-André have demonstrated that they are all well positioned and prepared to earn a Top 2 spot at the Continental Qualifier," he stressed.

Josipa Kafadar returns to the women's 49kg category after a strong performance at the Tokyo 2020 qualifiers three years ago. With more experience under her belt, she has set her sights on qualifying again and gave an insight into her preparations.

"I am very grateful for the opportunity to compete for Team Canada and earn an Olympic berth. It has been a dream of mine since I was young. It is a goal I have been working towards since watching taekwondo at the 2008 Olympics. I have pushed myself to the limit and I appreciate the people who have helped me get to where I am and where I'm going," said the athlete.

Marc-André Bergeron. OLYMPIC.CA
Marc-André Bergeron. OLYMPIC.CA

Braven Park, currently ranked 28th in the world in his Olympic weight class, will compete in the men's 58kg division. He is no stranger to tough competition, having previously competed in the World Taekwondo Grand Prix series and narrowly missing the podium at the 2023 Pan American Games. This will be his first continental qualifier and he is aiming to join his sister, Skylar Park, at Paris 2024. 

After an impressive bronze medal performance at the 2023 Pan American Games, Marc-André Bergeron was hoping to continue his decades-long career with an Olympic qualification. Having competed in the continental qualifiers for the 2016 and 2020 Games, Bergeron remains to be the epitome of perseverance. The 32-year-old is back on track and determined to qualify.

With the potential to send as many as four Canadian taekwondo athletes to the Paris Games, Dr. Wrigley and Taekwondo Canada are extremely proud of how each athlete and their coach have executed their own tailor-made performance plans.

"We have three very different athletes coming into the qualifiers. Their coaches Daniel Thornton (Josipa Kafadar), Jae Park (Braven Park), and Samuel Desjardins (Marc-André Bergeron) have worked closely with our high performance staff to ensure that each has received the support and funding needed they need to pursue their preparation plans," Wrigley said.

"While the results will always lead us back to evaluate what we could have done differently, it is hard to imagine being more confident in the ability of each of our athletes to earn a quota spot in Santo Domingo. The coaches and athletes have left no stone unturned in their preparations for the tournament," he added.