Top: Austin Bybee attacks Czech opponent Petr Dvoracek with a roundhouse kick to the head. Austin qualified for the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, AL.
The 2021 WAKO amateur kickboxing world championships took place in Jesolo, Italy from October 15 to 24, 2021. Team Captain Rob Zbilski and headcoach David Bybee and their team of supporting coaches were tasked with organizing and coaching the ringsports division of the US team to Italy. Most of the ringsports fighters from America participated in the K1 division that allows boxing techniques along with kicking below and above the waist in addition to knee strikes. Apart from the possibility of winning a world title the placements in the tournament allowed the best fighters to qualify for the upcoming World Games in Birmingham, AL in 2022.
WAKO world championships are kickboxing tournaments where fighters proceed to the final as they win each of their 3 round fights in a tough elimination system. While the US Team used to be one of the leading countries during the inception of fullcontact kickboxing back in the seventies and eighties a lot has changed since the days of pioneers. Primarily Eastern European countries have become stronger in ringsports and excelled over American and Western European nations.
Jenina Pilla (right) against Canadian Stephanie Goode. The American qualified for the WG 2022.
David Bybee's task was not easy in this perspective. He had to find good amateur fighters who were able to compete with the best in the world while not being able to prepare for the championships in a perfect way. Covid and travel restrictions made it a very difficult task to accomplish. Nevertheless a strong team of Americans was able to compete in Italy. Young and hungry fighters with great spirit and good skills. However, not as experienced as fighters from other countries who are closer to international circuits and above all sponsored by their governments.
Lillie Helton was the only American to place in the medals for the Lowkick competition. She won her elimination fights convincingly but lost a narrow decision in her semifinal match against Strong Turkish Fatnanahim Gokce to capture bronze. The other lowkick and fullcontact fighters did not do nearly as well as Lillie, but three K1 fighters managed to place in the top 5 of their divisions giving them enough points to qualify for the 2022 World Games in Alabama.
Lilie Helton winning her elimination match over Bosnia-Herzegowina fighter Sejla Orascanin.
For K1 American had better hopes with Austin Bybee only being stopped by Czech fighter Petr Dvoracek in a very competitive match that saw both middleweights exchanging blows without slowing down. Amanda Ginski and Jenine Pilla were the two female fighters who placed high enough to earn their place for the 2022 World Games alongside Austin. Unfortunately, on the bottom line there was no medal for the Americans this year. However, they do have presented a good stable of aspiring fighters building up experience for upcoming challenges. It is just a matter of time until they win medals again.
Nathaniel Gaston, K1 -91Kg
All matches of the WAKO kickboxing world championships in Jesolo can be viewed at the following url: