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Slimming down pays off for Taekwondo Grand Prix gold medalist

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's Wei Chen-yang reaped the reward yesterday for his push to lose 5 kilograms in less than a month, an effort that let him take the gold in the men's 58-kg category of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix.

Wei beat South Korea's Kim Tae-hun to take the top prize for the category at the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) event, held in Manchester in the United Kingdom.

The 21-year-old 2010 Asian Game gold medalist said it was tough to adjust his weight to enter the event's 58-kg category after competing in the 63-kg group as recently as October for Taiwan's National Games.

“Because of my No. 1 ranking (in the WTF Olympic 58-kg division), the coaches had high hopes for me and pushed me so hard that I almost wanted to give up Taekwondo entirely,” he told CNA in a telephone interview.

Wei was placed at the top of the WTF Olympic rankings for the weight category in October and November after placing sixth in September.

Pushed by his father, a taekwondo trainer himself, to beef up and begin competing in the 63-kg group this year, he won gold medals in the category at the East Asian Games and Taiwan's National Games, both held in October.

That left him with less than a month to slim down and prepare for the Grand Prix in the U.K., a process he called “gruesome,” but the weight loss had its benefits, too.

“Coming back to compete in the 58-kg group, I feel that my resistance has improved and I'm not easily pushed back, while my continuous attacks have gotten smoother,” he said.

Wei's participation in the 58-kg group was a strategic move to gain more points in the category ahead of the next Olympic Games, set for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Also Saturday in the U.K., Taiwan's Chuang Chia-chia took home a silver medal in the women's 67-kg group after losing to Sweden's Elin Johansson in the finals.

Tseng Li-cheng in the women's 57-kg group will be the only Taiwanese athlete on the last day of the three-day event Sunday.

Tseng earned a bronze medal in that division in the 2012 London Olympic Games and is ranked No. 6 in the WTF Olympic ranking published Dec. 1.

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