Simone Alessio ©World Taekwondo

In 2019, shortly after he had turned 19, Simone Alessio reflected upon his surprise victory in the men's under-74 kilograms lightweight class at the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester, making him the first Italian to win world gold.

After his 18-11 win over Jordan's Rio 2016 champion Ahmad Abughaush in the final, the long-limbed 6ft 4in athlete told World Taekwondo: "I am so happy and proud of my achievements.

"This has been my dream since I was a child, so it was really great to arrive in the best condition I have ever been in and win gold.

"I had to train really hard for this competition because I knew Abughaush was going to be very strong.

"When I won, I couldn't believe it, and I think this is only the start."

Alessio wasn’t wrong - and after the COVID-19 hiatus that afflicted the whole sport, he qualified for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games via the European Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Once in Japan, however, his Olympic ambitions ended in his second contest in the men's under-80kg welterweight category as he lost narrowly, by 6-5, to Egypt's eventual bronze medallist Seif Eissa.

Alessio got the same sort of feeling a year later as at the 2022 World Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, as he lost his first contest in the welterweight class, this time to Mongolia's Altangereliin Azbayar, who went on to take silver.

After winning his second world title in Baku, Simone Alessio is looking forward to Paris 2024 ©Getty Images
After winning his second world title in Baku, Simone Alessio is looking forward to Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

A year later, however, and Alessio, just 23, found his way back to the top of the world podium once again in the Championships held at the Azerbaijan capital of Baku.

Having established himself as world number one in his category, Alessio won all his matches in two rounds, including against China's Tang Hao, Matej Nikolić of Croatia and defending champion Park Woo-hyeok of South Korea to reach the semi-finals.

He took a low-scoring route to gold in the evening session, scoring just six points across his semi-final against Colombia's Miguel Trejos Salas and final against the United States' Carl Nickolas.

As he did in his semi-final, Alessio won a scoreless first round on hits against Nickolas, then took the second 2-1 to earn gold.

Nickolas had caused an upset in the semi-final against Olympic and world bronze medallist Seif Eissa of Egypt, triumphing 2-0 and 10-5.

Now the young Italian is looking forward to next year's Paris 2024 Olympics with rising ambition.