Canada’s Skylar Park, second from left, and Mexico’s Juan Diego García López, right, were the prize awards at the Pan American Taekwondo Union Gala Dinner ©World Taekwondo

Mexico’s Juan Diego García López and Canada’s Skylar Park were named the respective best male and female athletes at the Pan American Taekwondo Union (PATU) Gala Dinner staged here before the start of the World Taekwondo Championships.

It was the first time a World Taekwondo continental union had staged a dedicated awards ceremony and it did not disappoint with a total of 30 prizes handed out.

The courtyard of Hospicio Cabañas, which opened in 1803 as a combined almshouse, hospital and orphanage, provided a stunning location for the first-ever PATU Gala Dinner as the achievements of athletes, coaches, officials and referees from the region were celebrated in the Mexican city of Guadalajara.

There was home success for García López who picked up the best male athlete award in recognition of his under-75 kilogrammes K44 gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Park, who achieved world bronze in the women’s 57kg category in 2019, picked up the female equivalent prize.

There were also awards handed out to Pan American Olympic medallists Anastasija Zolotic of the United States and Rafael Yunier Alba Castillo of Cuba after winning gold and bronze respectively at Tokyo 2020.

Mexicans Guillermo Manuel Cortés, Uriel Adriano Avigdor Ruiz and Paula Fregoso Arrellano all collected prizes following their exploits on the world stage.

Referees Susanne Mitchell and Axel Sánchez were also among the prize winners along with Jannet Alegría Peña and Diego Guimaraes Ribeiro who were named as the best coaches in recognition of their efforts to aid the Mexican and Brazilian teams respectively.

Brazil and the US collected the best member national association awards, while the sport excellence honour went to the Dominican Taekwondo Federation and the taekwondo development prize was awarded to the Ecuador Taekwondo Federation.

World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue also received a prize as he picked up the appreciation award for support to Pan American taekwondo development.

"It’s an honour to receive this award," said Choue.

"Next year, World Taekwondo will celebrate its 50th anniversary and this will be another step forward for the International Federation."

There were further special recognition awards for Kukkiwon President Lee Dong-sup and Mexicans Ana Gabriela Guevara Espinoza and Enrique Alfaro Ramírez.

The Gala Dinner also announced 10 inductees to the PATU Hall of Fame.

World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue received the appreciation award for support to Pan American taekwondo development ©World Taekwondo
World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue received the appreciation award for support to Pan American taekwondo development ©World Taekwondo

Among those included were American Kyung Ho-min and Venezuelan Hung Ki-kim in recognition for a lifetime contribution to the sport.

The other inductees were Barbara Wakefield, Uwe Otterbein, Victor Estrada, Natalia Falavigna, María del Rosario Espinoza, Jay Warwick, Maria Borello Castillo and Moon Dai-won.

After the conclusion of the awards, attendees dined while being serenaded by a Mariachi band and dazzled by a troupe of folk dancers.

"After almost 50 years, today we will witness the recognition of taekwondo protagonists, authors, builders and ambassadors," said PATU President Juan Manuel Lopez.

"With their work and professionalism, they wrote PATU history.

"As we did in 2014 by hosting the first-ever gala dinner for World Taekwondo in Queretaro, today we take a concrete step, with responsibility and leadership of the National Federations.

"This will be memorialised in time as the lifetime contribution of significant figures of Pan American taekwondo.

"In addition, we are recognising the great work of those who make a life pursuing the Olympic dream year after year."

The PATU Gala Dinner was staged before the World Taekwondo Championships which is due to be opened today.