An Olympic Games of Taekwondo Firsts

 

With the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games now behind us, I am very proud of the competitions that we at the World Taekwondo Federation have been responsible for. A total of 128 athletes from 63 countries joined us for four days of memorable sport. There were unexpected victories, last-second victories and even last half-second victories.

We had first-time medalists of course, and also first-time countries participating. After 36 years of participation, Jordan won its first ever Olympic medal, in taekwondo in Rio, with Ahmad Abughaush winning gold in the men’s -68 KG category. We also had Iran’s first ever female Olympic medal and Côte d’Ivoire’s first ever Olympic gold medal. In every case, elite sport was played out in the true spirit of friendship, respect and fair play.

Taekwondo is an accessible sport, one that can be practiced regardless of age, gender or disability and this is something precious to us. We were very satisfied to see medals being won by the athletes of 20 different National Olympic Committees.

New flags at the medal ceremony were not the only innovation in Rio, of course. For the first time, we implemented our Protector Scoring System in the head guards to register every scoring strike made with sufficient force. Ours is a fast-moving an exciting sport, but we did not wish for there to be even the smallest confusion about scoring. A video replay system was also in place to ensure complete transparency.

Our innovations to ensure the integrity of the score in each match represent the work done by the World Taekwondo Federation to learn from our experiences as past Olympic Games. There are always opportunities to learn and like the athletes, we are always looking to perform better. It is this constant effort to deliver excellence from everyone involved that makes the field of play at the Olympic Games such a special place.

Innovation can also come from careful thinking and from discussion with the athletes. Rio 2016 was the first time we used an octagonal mat and this allowed the athletes more variety in the way they approached their opponents.

Thanks to all the hard work by so many, the field of play at Rio 2016 was as marvelous as the city itself.

There were some issues in other areas, but none of these significantly impacted the field of play and we know from our athletes that they enjoyed a truly Olympic experience. They made the journey home with wonderful memories and new friends, as it should be.

Of course one other thing that makes the Olympic Games so special is to have so many sports in the same place. It was a great pleasure to help bring the Olympic Park to life, to be inspired to greater heights by our friends in other international federations. We gladly accept the challenge to see if we can do even better in Tokyo 2020.

By Dr Chungwon Choue, World Taekwondo Federation President

This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.

 

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