The competition is stiff. There are a lot of great Taekwondo athletes out there who train through blood, sweat, and tears to win world competitions.
Let’s look at this list of 10 famous Taekwondo athletes who are considered to be the greatest Taekwondo players of all time.
10. Sebastian Eduardo Crismanich (Argentina)
- Birthday: October 30, 1986
- Weight Class: Heavyweight 80 kg+
- Records: Won the first Taekwondo gold medal for Argentina (the second gold medal for them ever).
- Years Active: 2011 – 2012
- Top Awards: Gold medal in 2012,
- Championships: 2011 Pan American Games, World Taekwondo Championship bronze medal in 2009
Sebastian Eduardo Crismanich, though Croatian by ethnicity, was born in Corrientes, Argentina to an immigrant family. He and his brother, Mauro Crismanich, began studying Taekwondo when Sebastian was just 7 years old.
Interestingly, Sebastian preferred to play football but stuck with Taekwondo to accompany his brother. Mauro has also distinguished himself in Taekwondo and won the bronze medal for the men’s flyweight category in 2009 at the World Taekwondo Championships in Copenhagen.
Sebastian qualified for the 2012 London Olympics (which he won) when he fought in Queretaro, Mexico against none other than Steven Lopez, a familiar name if you have followed Taekwondo in the Olympics.
See his winning match in London here.
9. Cha Dong-min (South Korea)
- Birthday: August 24, 1986
- Weight Class: Heavyweight 80 kg+
- Years Active: 2008 – 2016
- Top Awards: Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics
- Championships: Won the Asian Championships in 2012 in Ho Chi Minh City and the 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong. Took silver at the 2011 World Championships in Gyeongju.
In this sport, it’s not surprising to see a South Korean name on this list. Cha Dong-min is a heavyweight champion who had a reputation for intimidating his opponents both mentally and physically. He is 1.89 M (6 ft, 2.4 in) so he easily looks down on most people.
He has competed in three Olympic Games. He took the gold medal during his first attempt in Beijing in 2008. In 2012, he found to defend his title but lost in the Quarterfinal round to Bahri Tannkulu of Turkey. After that, he appeared again in Rio in 2016 to take home the bronze.
Then he announced his retirement, making the Rio Games his last international competition.
See his match at the Asian Taekwondo Championships in 2012.
8. Moon Dae-sung (South Korea)
- Birthday: September 3, 1976
- Weight Class: Heavyweight 80 kg+
- Years Active: 1995 – 2004
- Top Awards: Gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games
- Championships: Won the 1999 Edmonton World Championships, the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, and the 2000 Asian Championships in Hong Kong.
With all the Olympic medals won by South Korean athletes, it’s not surprising that we’ll see them a few times on this list. Moon Dae-sung is even taller than Cha Dong-min, standing at 1.91 m (6 ft, 3 in).
He began competing after winning a Taekwondo scholarship and entering Dong-A University in 1995. After graduating, he became part of the Samsung Corporation Professional Taekwondo team.
His performance has not disappointed a single fan as Moon has gone home with the gold after every major competition. He is a well-known figure in Korea, appearing on television and making numerous public appearances. Because of this, he is probably one of the most famous Korean Taekwondo players.
Watch his gold medal win at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
7. Carlo Molfetta (Italy)
- Birthday: February 15, 1984
- Weight Class: All
- Years Active: 2001 – 2016
- Top Awards: Gold medal in the London 2012 Olympics
- Championships: Silver at the 2001 Jeju World Championships, Gold at the 2004 Daegu Universiade. Silver and Bronze at the 2004 and 2005 European Championships respectively. He won silver at the World Championships again in 2009, then gold at the European Championships in 2010. In 2011 he took bronze at the World Championships in Gyeongju, then bronze again at the 2012 European Championships.
Carlo Molfetta is considered the greatest Italian Taekwondo athlete. He has also earned himself the number 7 spot among the top 10 greatest Taekwondo players in the world.
He was present at the 2004 Athens Olympics but was too young to actually compete. For the 2008 Olympics, he was nursing severe injuries that prevented him from participating. Finally, in 2012 in London, he had his chance for the gold, which he won in the 80+ kg division.
Before that, he won many gold, silver, and bronze medals at various championships. Over the years, he fought in every weight category.
In September 2016, he announced his retirement. Then in February 2017, he became the team manager for the Italian National Team of Taekwondo.
Watch Molfetta’s gold medal match at the 2012 Olympics.
6. Chu Mu-yen (Taiwan)
- Birthday: March 14, 1982
- Weight Class: Finweight and flyweight (under 58 kg at the Olympics)
- Records: Second Taiwanese athlete and the first male to win a gold medal at the Olympics
- Years Active: 2000 – 2008
- Top Awards: Gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, bronze in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics
- Championships: Took silver in the 2001 World Championships, then silver again in the 2002 Asian Games, and gold at the 2002 Student World Championships. In 2003, he was back in the World Championships to take the gold, then bronze at the Student World Championships in 2004. After winning the Olympics in 2004, he took bronze in 2006 at the Asian Games.
Chu Mu-yen hails from the small island of Taiwan. He is considered to be one of the most successful Taiwanese athletes of all time.
As a small fighter, he has always fought in the lowest weight categories — sometimes against opponents larger and stronger than him. However, he is known for fighting with grit and determination against any opponent.
Watch highlights of his match at the 2008 Olympics.
5. Joel Gonzalez (Spain)
- Birthday: September 30, 1989
- Weight Class: Featherweight and Flyweight
- Records: First Olympic Taekwondo gold medal for Italy
- Years Active: 2009 – 2016
- Top Awards: Gold at the 2012 London Olympics, bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics
- Championships: Won gold at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships in Copenhagen and Gyeongju, respectively. In between, he also took gold in 2010 at the European Championships, followed by another gold from the same competition in 2012. In 2015, he took bronze in the Universiade, bronze in the European Games, and silver at the World Championships.
Joel Gonzalez Bonilla is a feisty Spanish Taekwondo fighter. He began studying Taekwondo as a young man in his father’s Taekwondo gym. One might wonder if his family ever dreamed that he would go so far!
Joel Gonzalez is known as one of the best Taekwondo players to come out of Spain. In 2012, he won Italy’s first Taekwondo Olympic gold medal along with a long list of wins in competitions and championships around the world.
See his gold medal match in the 2012 Olympics.
4. Servet Tazegül (Turkey)
- Birthday: September 26, 1988
- Weight Class: Featherweight
- Records: 1st in the world
- Years Active: 2004 – 2016
- Top Awards: Gold at the 2012 London Olympics, bronze in Beijing in 2008.
- Championships: He started out his career taking gold at the World Junior Championships in 2004, then gold in the European Junior Championships in 2005. He took the gold in every European Championship he fought in, which includes 2008 in Rome, 2010 in St. Petersburg, 2012 in Manchester, 2013 in Baku, and 2016 in Montreux. In 2009, he took bronze in the Copenhagen World Championships, followed by 2 gold wins at the 2011 and 2015 World Championships. In 2013, he took bronze at the Mediterranean Games in Mersin and bronze again in 2015 at the Manchester Grand Prix.
Though born in Nurnberg, Germany, Servet Tazegül is Turkish and has competed in Taekwondo for Turkey. He has quite a long and prestigious career with a number of gold medals to his name.
Aside from distinguishing himself as a tremendous fighter, he is also known as one of the most handsome Olympic athletes of all time.
In 2013, his country built a multipurpose indoor stadium in Mersin on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and named it in his honor.
Check out this highlight reel of some of his best moments.
3. Hwang Kyung Seon (South Korea)
- Birthday: May 21, 1986
- Weight Class: Welterweight, -67 kg
- Records: one of only three Taekwondo athletes to participate in 3 Olympic games, the first woman to ever win three Olympic Taekwondo medals, the first female and second Korean to defend an individual title in the Summer Olympics, and the youngest Korean to win these records
- Years Active: 2004 – 2012
- Top Awards: Gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. Bronze in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
- Championships: In 2005, she took gold at the World Championships in Madrid, then took gold at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006. She came back and took gold once again in 2007 at the Beijing World Championships, then bronze at the same competition in Gyeongju in 2011.
Finally, we come to the one and only female on the list of top Taekwondo players of all time. Hwang Kyung Seon hails from none other than South Korea and her exploits in Taekwondo are impressive, to say the least.
She achieves several records in her career and is one of only three Taekwondo athletes to participate in three Olympic Games. She has two Olympic golds and a bronze to her name. Without a doubt, she is the best female Taekwondo fighter of all time and made a fantastic addition to the Taekwondo Olympic team.
Here’s her gold medal match at the Olympics in 2012.
2. Hadi Saei (Iran)
- Birthday: June 10, 1976
- Weight Class: Middleweight
- Records: one of only three Taekwondo athletes to win 3 Olympic medals, most successful Iranian athlete in Olympic history, most titled champion in the sport
- Years Active: 1997 – 2008
- Top Awards: Gold medal at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. He took bronze at his first Olympic competition in Sydney.
- Championships: He won gold at the 1997 West Asian Games, then gold again in 1999 at the World Championships in Edmonton. In 2002, he took silver in the Asian Championships and Gold in the Asian Games. In 2003, he won the silver at the World Championships and then came back for the gold in 2005. In 2006 he took gold in the Busan Asian Games and bronze in 2007 at the World Championships. He announced his retirement in 2008 after winning the Beijing Olympics.
Hadi Saei began studying Taekwondo when he was just six years old. He went on to build an impressive career both in Taekwondo competitions and as a member of the City Council of Tehran in his native Iran.
He is one of only three contestants to take home three Olympic medals in Taekwondo. And has a long list of wins. He won his first gold medal in 1997 at the West Asian Games, which were held in Tehran.
During his first fight at the 2008 Olympics, he fractured his right hand. However, he did not indicate the injury until after he had won the gold.
Check out his win here at the 2005 World Taekwondo Championships.
1. Steven Lopez (USA)
- Birthday: November 9, 1978
- Weight Class: Lightweight, middleweight
- Records: Won the Taekwondo World Championships 5 times. Won the first Taekwondo gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
- Years Active: 1994 – 2015
- Top Awards: Gold medal at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics, bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
- Championships: 5 times a world champion, winning gold at the World Championships in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009. He started his career taking silver in 1994 at the Pan American Championships. Then, he came back to the same event and took gold in 1996 and 1998. He also won the World Junior Championships in 1996. In 2003, he came back to the Pan American Games and won another gold. In 2014, he took silver in the Grand Prix, then bronze the next year at the same event. In 2015, he took bronze in his last competition, the Grand Prix in Moscow.
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Now you get to meet the top Taekwondo player of all time. Surprisingly, he isn’t Korean!
Steven Lopez is an American Taekwondo fighter. He had the honor of winning the first gold medal in Taekwondo at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. Plus, he has dominated the World Championships, walking away with 5 gold medals.
In 2008, he was accompanied to the Beijing Olympics by his siblings Mark and Diana. That was the first time since 1904 that three siblings had been on the same Olympic team. Plus, the trio made history by all three of them claiming a world title at the same event, the 2005 World Taekwondo Championships.
See some of his most impressive moments here!
What do you call a Taekwondo player?
A person who practices Taekwondo is called a Taekwondoin. Since Olympic-style Taekwondo is considered a sport, the athletes are sometimes called players.
Who is the best Taekwondo player in the world?
Currently, American Steven Lopez is considered the best Taekwondo player of all time. He won the first gold medal ever for Taekwondo at the Olympics and has won Olympic medals three times. Plus, he has taken the gold 5 times at the World Championships.
How to become a Taekwondo Olympic athlete?
To qualify as a contestant in the 2024 Parisian Olympics, athletes must complete one of the following requirements:
- Advance to the round of 16 or higher in the 2022 or 2023 World Taekwondo Championships
- Win a medal at any of the competitions on the WT event calendar
- Be in the 1 to 20 ranking at least once in the World Taekwondo World Ranking during the qualification period
- Advance to the quarter-finals or higher at the Continental Taekwondo Championships or Continental Taekwondo Qualification Tournament
- Win their national Taekwondo championships
The Best Taekwondo Athletes
Did you enjoy meeting this prestigious group of individuals? Every one of them is an inspiring figure, to say the least.
Curious to learn more about great martial artists? Check out our list of some of the best Karate fighters as well!