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Meet the Elite Wu: Fact, Fiction, Olympics Lee: Korea’s ‘Taekwondo Turtle’ Asemani: Refugee Makes History

Empowering Lives: Humanitarian Mission is ‘Good to Go’ in 2016

Pilot Projects: Jordan, Turkey, Nepal

2016

Road to Rio 2016 Olympic Dreams

Gazzaev: Life Without Limits Khodabakhshi: ‘God-Given’ Talent

Ringside Reports World Championships! Para-Taekwondo! Grand Prix Series! World Cup! Cadets!

ISSUE NO.

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OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE WORLD TAEKWONDO FEDERATION


President’s the creative and extreme versions of taekwondo poomsae have developed. As we announced in our December 2015 WTF Council meeting, the Canadian city of Burnaby will host the World Taekwondo Junior Championships in 2016. This important tournament will give us all a close look at the pipeline of global talent that will be feeding competitive taekwondo in the years ahead. As part of our commitment to innovating our events, we will introduce the 1st WTF World Taekwondo Beach Championships in June this year in Bali, Indonesia. Beach sports have grown dramatically in popularity, particularly among young people, in recent years and the World Taekwondo Beach Championships will bring something fresh and exciting to a whole new audience. We also hope to see taekwondo included in the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games in San Diego, the United States in 2017. But most importantly, 2016 is an Olympic year. The Olympic Games are the very pinnacle for our athletes and provide them with the ultimate platform to showcase their exceptional talent on the global stage. The 2015 Grand Prix series has granted our elite-level fighters more comprehensive, professionally staged competitive experiences than ever before. Now, they all know each other’s games, and fierce, but friendly rivalries are in play in every weight category. Our athletes are ready to thrill and excite the Olympic audience with their fast and precise techniques in Rio. Following the success of taekwondo at London 2012, where we saw medals won by more countries than ever

before, I have no doubt Rio 2016 will provide one of the finest moments in our sporting history. In the early months of 2016, continental Olympic qualification tournaments and wild cards will give those athletes who did not qualify via ranking points their chance to secure their NOCs Olympic places. The WTF is first and foremost a sport organization, but we are also striving to fulfill our social responsibility as an International Federation. In this vein, in early 2015, we came up with the idea of establishing a new body, the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, or THF. The THF will assist refugees and displaced persons by providing them with the opportunity to learn and participate in taekwondo. Organizations already exist that supply refugees with the bare essentials of food and drink, shelter and medicine. We will not replicate these efforts. Instead, the THF will harness the power of taekwondo to teach refugees understanding, self-discipline and respect, and encourage them to live healthy lifestyles. As WTF President, it was an honor and a privilege for me to formally announce the THF to the world at the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 21 on the 2015 U.N. International Day of Peace. The THF is being officially set up in the WTF’s Lausanne office. The establishment of a charitable foundation is a detailed and time-consuming process that cannot be rushed. But I am pleased to report that the WTF has already kicked off pilot projects in

President’s

MESSAGE

MESSAGE

D

ear global taekwondo family and friends, The year 2015 will go down as one of the most successful years in taekwondo’s history. At the beginning of the year, we received the very welcome news that taekwondo would be included in the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020. This was a huge honor for taekwondo and truly makes us a “sport for all.” We also witnessed the most successful World Taekwondo Championships the WTF has ever hosted – I offer our sincerest thanks to all those in Chelyabinsk, Russia, who did such a wonderful job as hosts. Following the World Championships, we saw the four Grand Prix events take place in Moscow, Russia; Samsun, Turkey; Manchester, GB; and Mexico City, Mexico. Throughout the Grand Prix, we were treated to exciting and dramatic competitions which highlighted the global strength of our sport. By the time the finals were over, 48 elite taekwondo athletes had won their NOCs quota places for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. We also hosted the second annual WTF Gala Awards which took place in Mexico’s historic National Theater and celebrated the outstanding achievements of athletes, coaches and referees. In 2016 we will look to build on the success of 2015 and continue to identify ways of evolving and improving our sport for the benefit of athletes and fans. 2016 will see the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships take place in Lima, Peru, showcasing the artistic side of our sport. I am personally looking forward to seeing how

2016

‘The WTF’s slogan for 2016 is “One World, One Taekwondo.” I am entirely confident that our organization will deliver on this promise this year’

two Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, with the full backing and cooperation of Jordanian authorities. Another is underway in a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey, All early indications are positive. A third pilot program is underway in earthquake-struck Nepal. In 2016, these humanitarian programs will begin fullscale operations. We are currently aligning our efforts with those of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office, which we expect will advise us on suitable locations for future projects, most probably in refugee camps in Africa and Latin America. Across all our operations, we will ensure that we are fully aligned with the International Olympic Committee and the principles of good governance. Good governance has always been, and remains, a key priority of the WTF. This was reflected in our strategic roadmap for 2016 which outlines five key areas that the WTF will prioritize over the year to ensure that the federation continues to grow and develop in line with international best practice. The WTF’s slogan for 2016 is “One World, One Taekwondo.” I am entirely confident that our organization will deliver on this promise this year. To achieve it, the WTF leadership hopes to leverage the full support of the global taekwondo family. Together, I believe that 2016 can be our most successful year yet. In this spirit, I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2016! Yours in taekwondo,

Chungwon Choue President World Taekwondo Federation

TAEKWONDO Official Publication of the WTF


50 EUROPE 1. Albania 2.Andorra 3.Armenia 4.Austria 5.Azerbaijan 6.Belarus 7.Belgium 8.Bosnia & Herzegovina 9.Bulgaria 10.Croatia 11.Cyprus 12.Czech Republic 13.Denmark 14.Estonia 15.Finland 16.France 17.Georgia 18.Germany 19.Great Britain 20.Greece 21.Hungary 22.Iceland 23.Ireland 24.Isle of Man 25.Israel 26.Italy 27.Kosovo 28.Latvia 29.Lithuania 30.Luxembourg 31.Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 32.Malta 33.Moldova 34.Monaco 35.Montenegro 36.The Netherlands 37.Norway 38.Poland 39.Portugal 40.Romania 41.Russia 42.San Marino 43.Serbia 44.Slovakia 45.Slovenia 46.Spain 47.Sweden 48.Switzerland 49.Turkey 50.Ukraine

206 Global Membership:

+1

43 ASIA 1.Afghanistan 2.Bahrain 3.Bangladesh 4.Bhutan 5.Brunei 6.Cambodia 7.China 8.Chinese Taipei 9.Hong Kong 10.India 11.Indonesia 12.Iran 13.Iraq 14.Japan 15.Jordan 16.Kazakhstan 17.Korea 18.Kuwait 19.Kyrgyzstan 20.Laos 21.Lebanon 22.Macao 23.Malaysia 24.Mongolia 25.Myanmar 26.Nepal 27.Oman 28.Pakistan 29.Palestine 30.Philippines 31.Qatar 32.Saudi Arabia 33.Singapore 34.Sri Lanka 35.Syria 36.Tajikistan 37.Thailand 38.Timor-Leste 39.Turkmenistan 40.United Arab Emirates 41.Uzbekistan 42.Vietnam 43.Yemen

The WTF has 206 Member National Associations + 1. The “+1” stands for refugees. With nearly 20 million refugees worldwide, the WTF is working to assist refugees and is actively inviting refugee athletes to participate in competitions - including the Olympics.

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50

PAN AMERICA

AFRICA

1.Antigua & Barbuda 2.Argentina 3.Aruba 4.Bahamas 5.Barbados 6.Belize 7.Bermuda 8.Bolivia 9.Brazil 10.British Virgin Islands 11.Canada 12.Cayman Islands 13.Chile 14.Colombia 15.Costa Rica 16.Dominican Republic 17.Cuba 18.Dominica 19.Ecuador 20.El Salvador 21.Grenada 22.Guadeloupe 23.Guatemala 24.Guyana 25.Haiti 26.Honduras 27.Jamaica 28.Martinique 29.Mexico 30.Curacao 31.Nicaragua 32.Panama 33.Paraguay 34.Peru 35.Puerto Rico 36.St. Lucia 37.St. Kitts & Nevis 38.Surinam 39.St. Vincent & the Grenadines 40.Trinidad and Tobago 41.Uruguay 42.U.S.A. 43.Virgin Islands 44.Venezuela

1.Algeria 2.Angola 3.Benin 4.Botswana 5.Burkina Faso 6.Burundi 7.Cameroon 8.Cape Verde 9.Central African Republic 10.Comoros 11.Cote d’Ivoire 12.Congo 13.D.R. of the Congo 14.Egypt 15.Equatorial Guinea 16.Ethiopia 17.Gabon 18.Gambia 19.Ghana 20.Guinea 21.Kenya 22.Lesotho 23.Liberia 24.Libya 25.Madagascar 26.Malawi 27.Mali 28.Mauritania 29.Mauritius 30.Morocco 31.Mozambique 32.Niger 33.Nigeria 34.Rwanda 35.Sao Tome & Principe 36.Senegal 37.Seychelles 38.Sierra Leone 39.Somalia 40.South Africa 41.Sudan 42.South Sudan 43.Swaziland 44.Chad 45.Tanzania 46.Togo 47.Tunisia 48.Uganda 49.Zimbabwe 50.Zambia

19 OCEANIA 1.American Samoa 2.Australia 3.Cook Islands 4.Fiji 5.French Polynesia 6.Guam 7.Kiribati 8.Marshall Islands 9.Micronesia 10.Nauru 11.New Caledonia 12.New Zealand 13.Palau 14.Papua New Guinea 15.Samoa 16.Solomon Islands 17.Tonga 18.Tuvalu 19.Vanuatu


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CONTENTS

President’s Message

4

Global Membership

6

2016 Part

1 Social Responsibility Empowering Lives: New Humanitarian Mission is ‘Good to Go’ in 2016

15

WTF Chief Announces New Humanitarian Body at United Nations HQ

20

Pilot Projects / 1-3 1: Jordan is First Destination for Humanitarian Program

Little Girl, Big Spirit

22 27

2: Syrian Refugee Camp in Turkey is WTF’s Second Humanitarian Mission

28

3: In Nepal, Warm Welcome and ‘Heartbreaking’ Devastation

30

Rock ‘n’ Roll Banker Donates Profits, Song to Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation

36

WTF Head Urges Creation of Sport Peace Corps

37

WTF President Meets with U.N. Secretary General for Discussion on Creating Sport Peace Corps

37

Part

2 Road to Rio 2016: Meet the Elite Road to Rio: Walking the Path

40

Olympic Taekwondo: It’s a Family Affair

40

Qualified For Rio 2016

41

Road to Rio: Stars to Watch

42

Athlete Interviews

Jingyu Wu (CHN) | Olympic Joy: From Fiction to Fact

48

Dae-hoon Lee (KOR) | Team Korea’s Quick-Eyed ‘Taekwondo Turtle’

52

Aaron Cook (MDA) | Taekwondo’s Favorite Fighter Aims to Give Adopted Home First Gold 56 Jaouad Achab (BEL) | His Mother’s Dream Fulfilled

60

Raheleh Asemani (WTF/ IOC) | Making History: ‘If this was a Movie, Nobody would Believe It!’

64

Anastasia Baryshnikova (RUS) | The Grace of a Baryshnikov, the Power of a Kalashnikov

68

Cheick Sallah Cisse (CIV) | ‘Man with No Fear’

72

Saul Gutierrez (MEX) | ‘The Spine’ Who Loves to Fight

76

Si Mohamed Ketbi (BEL) | Meet the Schoolboy Silver Medalist

80

Mahdi Khodabakhshi (IRI) | ‘God-Given Talent’ Aims to be ‘New Man’ in Rio

84

Milica Mandic (SER) | Popular Olympian Beats Injury, Recovers Form

88

Dmitriy Shokin (UZB) | ‘Shock Force’ Walks Bitter Road to Rio

92

Servet Tazegul (TUR) | Turkish Cheetah Set to Roar in Rio

96

Levent Tuncat (GER) | Against All Odds

100

Bianca Walkden (GBR) | ‘Queen Bee’ Seizes Championship Crown

104


CONTENTS Part

3 Best of the Best Best World Championships Ever

110

Moscow Grand Prix Series 1 Kicks off Elite Athletes’ ‘Road to Rio’

128

Taekwondo’s Elite Fight ‘Black Sea Battle’ as Samsun, Turkey Hosts Grand Prix Series 2

134

Manchester Delivers a Classic Grand Prix at 2015’s Series 3

140

Manchester Magic: Merging Sport and Entertainment for the Ultimate Event

146

At 2015 Grand Prix Final in Mexico City, 48 Players Earn Slots for Rio 2016

150

2nd WTF Gala Awards

156

China and Azerbaijan Victorious in 2015 World Cup Team Championships in Mexico City

162

Korea Grabs Overall Male Title, Iran Female, at 2nd WTF World Cadet Championships in Muju, Korea

166

Athlete Interviews

5 Around the WTF IOC Head Praises Taekwondo’s Growth and Globalization

209

Black Belt for Bach

210

Masoud Hajizavareh (IRI) | For Joyful Warrior, Taekwondo is Game On 168

Nia Sanchez: Black Belt Beauty to Talk up Taekwondo

212

Carlos Navarro (MEX) | Skills, Spills and Big Smiles 172

2015 Miss World Brazil Appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for Taekwondo

215

Ruslan Poiseev (RUS) | This David Fears No Goliath 176

WTF Council Convenes in Mexico City, Grants 2016 World Juniors to Burnaby, Canada

216

Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari (IRI) | ‘Mr. Unpredictable’ Aims to be Taekwondo’s Greatest-Ever Fighter 180

New Council Members of the WTF

217

WTF, Taekwondo Promotion Foundation Agreement Inked

217

WTF Signs Record-Breaking Global Partnership with Booyoung Group

218

‘European Taekwondo Pioneer’ and WTF Vice President Sun Jae Park Passes Away

222

WTF Mourns Passing of ‘Father of Competitive Taekwondo’

222

‘Sport for a Better World’ is the Proposed Mission

223

2015 WTF-KHU Partnership Taekwondo Training Program

223

Belgian Coach Karim Dighou: Punching Above His Weight

224

New WTF Technical Committee Chairman Kook-hyun Jung: Master with a Mission

226

West Point Looks East: Taekwondo at the U.S. Military Academy

230

Moldovan Prime Minister Pledges to Promote Taekwondo Across Nation

232

Nepal: Broken Country, Unbroken Spirit

233

As World’s Youngest Country Gets to its Feet, Taekwondo Has Foot in Door

234

Trouble in Paradise: Is Taekwondo the Solution?

236

Puerto Rico Seeks to Become Caribbean Taekwondo Hub with University Program

237

Messages from the Continental Unions

238

WTF Event Calendar (2016-2017)

240

Part

4 Para-Taekwondo Russia Wins Double Victory at 6th World Para-Taekwondo Championships in Turkey

Athlete Interviews

Part

186

Solaimana Jack Mohammed Mohamod (COM) | Have Taekwondo, Will Travel 192 Spartak ‘Grizzly’ Gazzaev (RUS) | A Life Without Limits 196 Amy ‘Kickarse’ Truesdale (GBR) | ‘It’s about Ability, not Disability’

200

Vika’s Gift

204

WTF Instates Para-Taekwondo Governing Board

205


Part

1

Social Responsibility


Empowering Lives: New Humanitarian Mission is ‘Good to Go’ in 2016 In line with the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020, and in response to the global refugee crisis, the WTF is creating a focused new charitable arm: The Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation. What does it do and what does it offer? Here is the story so far

O

ne of the greatest crises facing humanity is the flood of desperate refugees flowing across international borders. According to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, there are some 20 million refugees worldwide, and the figure goes up to about 60 million when those internally displaced inside their own nations and those seeking asylum are added. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, via its Olympic Agenda 2020, has been urging International Federations to conduct social responsibility programs. It was against the backdrop of these developments that WTF President Chungwon Choue began, last year, considering what role taekwondo could or should play. The result of his thinking and related discussions was the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, or THF, a body designed specifically to help refugees and displaced persons. It is an issue that Choue himself feels strongly about, given his personal history. “I consider myself not a Korean, but a citizen of the world. However - as a Korean passport holder - this initiative is close to my heart,” he said. “I am old enough to remember the devastation of the 19501953 Korean War and the many nations that rallied to Korea’s aid in those dark

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years. Now, as a Korean who heads the global taekwondo family, I can return that favor by giving something back.” While Choue had experience in charitable work – he has previously presided over the creation of the Taekwondo Peace Corps, which dispatches young Korean instructors on short-term teaching missions around the world – he was also advised by Saudi Arabia/UK-based taekwondo master Usman Dildar. His London-based schools had, on their own initiative, raised money and delivered humanitarian supplies to “The Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, France, and the Afghanistan-born Dildar had relevant life experiences. “I spent time growing up in refugee camps in Afghanistan and so I know first-hand the levels of fear, anxiety and indeed boredom of having nothing to do each day,” he said. “I know that our sport has a values system that can help provide structure to refugees’ time in camps and hopefully give them a passion and a future beyond their time in the camps. My real hope is that we make a long-term difference.” The THF is designed to assist two groups of people: refugees – persons forced abroad for political reasons, such as war; and displaced persons – those who have lost their homes for other reasons, such as natural disasters, but remain in their own nations.

Part 1 | Social Responsibility

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Empowering Lives: New Humanitarian Mission is ‘Good to Go’ in 2016

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TAEKWONDO Official Publication of the WTF

The WTF recognizes that the organization’s core competency is taekwondo. For this reason, the THF will not attempt to provide the basic life-saving elements of human existence: shelter, food, water, medical assistance, and security. There is no point in the THF duplicating the efforts of a myriad of competent multinational, governmental and non-governmental organizations which already carry out these tasks. So, instead of life-saving, the THF’s key

dren – are in poor health and are psychologically fragile. Many are physically and/ or emotionally traumatized. And in many camps, there are few constructive activities available; little for refugees to do in terms of leisure and education. Such an existence can be soul-destroying. This is where taekwondo – which requires no special playing field or court, nor any special bats, balls or equipment, making it perhaps the world’s most economical, most easily deployable sport –

mission is life empowerment: upgrading the lives and lifestyles of refugees and displaced persons by teaching them the sport, martial art and physical discipline of taekwondo, backed up, where necessary, by equipment and infrastructure provision. Related educational programs on Olympism, world peace and global citizenship are part of the offering. “Sport should be a ‘school of life,’ respectful of Olympic values,” said WTF Lausanne Office Director General Roger Piarulli. The importance of physical and mental empowerment should not be underestimated. Many refugees – particularly chil-

comes into its own. As a physical exercise delivering stamina, flexibility, agility and strength, it builds and rehabilitates physiques. As a martial art teaching self-defence, it inculcates self-belief and self-confidence. And as an Olympic sport, it teaches the values of fair play and of friendship across all borders of gender and age, color and creed, ethnicity and nationality. Moreover, when refugees are offered asylum in nations where they have no family or social contacts, taekwondo – via local clubs – offers an immediate network in their new homes. It also grants dan-grade

Part 1 | Social Responsibility

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Empowering Lives: New Humanitarian Mission is ‘Good to Go’ in 2016

holders a means of generating income, via coaching. And of course, for elite players, it dangles the dream of sporting glory. For example, Iran-born, Belgium-based athlete Raheleh Asemani has qualified for Rio 2016 despite her refugee status (see separate story in this issue). To be successful, the THF must observe three essential guidelines. All programs and activities must be aligned, sustainable and transparent. “Aligned” means working in close cooperation with other stakeholders such as governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, partners and sponsors. “Sustainable” means they must have longterm feasibility; there are no quick fixes. And “Transparent” means open and well communicated, so all stakeholders know that programs are well run and that funds are being well spent. To carry out its mission, the WTF will dispatch taekwondo instructors to refugee camps and to displaced persons’ areas to

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teach. While external instructors, such as Taekwondo Peace Corps and WTF Demonstration Team members, can play a role in getting programs started, ideally, instructors will be locals themselves. This ensures that: there are no language or cultural barriers; that money is being spent on locals, not outsiders; and that programs are sustainable, long term. Uniforms and equipment will be provided by the THF when and where needed and the foundation will acquire or build physical dojangs which can be used for educational purposes as well as for taekwondo per se. Following a range of working-level meetings, the THF concept was discussed and approved by the WTF Council in 2015. The foundation’s existence and mission was formally announced to the world in a speech delivered by WTF President Choue to the UN headquarters in New York on Sept. 21, 2015.

Empowering Lives: New Humanitarian Mission is ‘Good to Go’ in 2016

A branded logo has already been created. Featuring the head of a lion, a majestic and aspirational animal, it embodies the key THF virtue: empowerment. Organizationally, the THF is being set up in the WTF’s Lausanne office, at the heart of the Olympic movement. With the foundation still being legally established at time of writing, no formal marketing or fund-raising initiatives have yet been instituted. However – wasting no time - alignments have already been established with the UN, UNHCR and the Jordanian, Turkish and Nepalese governments. The WTF is to sign a memorandum of understanding with the UNHCR in Geneva, Switzerland on March 10, 2016. The WTF has conducted several pilot projects at refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, and among displaced persons in earthquake-struck Nepal. These programs are designed to be benchmarks, delivering important lessons for the foundation once it begins full–

scale operations in 2016. The WTF plans to leverage the Summer Olympics in August as a platform to raise the THF’s visibility globally. And following Rio, and in order to maintain momentum,

a bespoke, high-profile event will likely take place in central Seoul’s City Hall plaza in September. So what does this all mean for WTF members? While the core mission is to assist refugees and displaced persons, it has a collateral benefit for the WTF rank and file. The programs offer WTF members something that every human with a conscience desires at some point in his or her life: the opportunity to do good. The WTF will be actively suggesting ways in which Continental Unions and Member National Associations, as well as competition organizers, dojangs and even coaches and athletes can help raise visibili-

ty, raise funds, or otherwise volunteer and assist. The key information channels are the WTF and THF websites and Facebook pages, as well as direct communications from CUs and MNAs. Expect to see viral THF information appearing online on social media, and offline on the sidelines of major WTF competitions. Naturally, the WTF is keeping its eye firmly fixed on its main task: administering taekwondo globally. But as the IOC has made clear, even sports organizations need to think beyond the field of play, and come up with ways to assist the wider family of humanity. ”For the WTF, 2016 is an Olympic year and of course, all eyes will be on our elite athletes as they fight it out in Rio,” Choue said. “But we are also thinking beyond the competition floor - and what better way to balance the world’s greatest sporting event than with meaningful humanitarian action?”

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WTF Chief Announces New Humanitarian Body at United Nations HQ

WTF Chief Announces New Humanitarian Body at United Nations HQ Chungwon Choue took the opportunity to present the THF to the world at the most prestigious location possible - before unleashing the WTF Demo Team …

W

orld Taekwondo Federation President Chungwon Choue revealed to the world the WTF’s plans for a new humanitarian organization in a speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, the United States, before overseeing an event that is surely unique in the organization’s history. In an address to 700 UN officials and students on Sept. 21, 2015, Choue first introduced the benefits taekwondo delivers. “It may seem paradoxical that an art of

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combat can be a way of peace - but it is!” Choue said. “Taekwondo is connecting people worldwide through a dynamic sport practiced in 206 nations and territories. It exemplifies Olympic values – which are sporting values and global values.” Noting that, for individuals, taekwondo is a vehicle delivering physical fitness, self-defense and self-respect, he then revealed the WTF’s new humanitarian initiative, the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation. The foundation is designed to

help the WTF discharge its humanitarian responsibilities and assist with one of the greatest problems of our day: the refugee crisis. “The refugee crisis is one of the biggest issues the world faces right now and it is an issue we must face together,” Choue said. “As IOC President Thomas Bach said, sport and the Olympic movement should play a part in bringing humanitarian help to refugees.” Taekwondo may be the ideal sport for

refugee camps. “As a sport which requires minimal equipment, taekwondo is ideally positioned to help as it is easily deployable and easily accessible to all,” Choue continued. “Taekwondo will bring hope and joy to young people in refugee camps, keep them active and promote our global values.” After his speech, Choue introduced the WTF Demonstration Team to the audience. Team members mastered the challenge of a very narrow space between audience

seating and the rostrum to deliver a short but spectacular presentation. Following that, Pan American Taekwondo Union President Ji-ho Choi – attired in dobok picked up a microphone and called on the audience to stand up. They responded enthusiastically as Choi and the Demonstration Team members led the UN through a short taekwondo lesson – surely a first for the global body. The WTF leader had delivered his address on the “UN International Day of

Peace,” an event first proposed by his late father, academic Young-seek Choue in 1981. “My father passed away three years ago and so it is really touching and emotional for me to be here to present the WTF Demonstration Team to the U.N.,” Choue said before his speech. Following their date at the UN, the WTF Demonstration Team had another appointment: A performance at the famous West Point Military Academy, where Master Choi teaches.

Part 1 | Social Responsibility

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Pilot Project

1

Jordan is First Destination for Humanitarian Program The first pilot program is upgrading the lifestyles of Syrian refugees while granting valuable experience in preparation for full-scale, global operations in 2016

A

bold new program to empower refugees by teaching them taekwondo kicked off with a spectacular opening ceremony for a training academy in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp on Dec. 1, 2015. The launch marked the start of a pilot program designed to gain experience before the WTF’s nascent Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, or THF, begins full-scale operations in 2016. In Zaatari refugee camp, some 70 kms northeast of the Jordanian capital Amman, 14 members of the elite WTF Taekwondo Demonstration Team, who had flown in from Seoul, performed kicks, aerials, self-defense techniques and board breaks. Visiting WTF President Chungwon Choue then declared the Zaatari camp

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Part 1 | Social Responsibility

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Jordan is Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation’s First Destination

“WTF Taekwondo Academy” open. “The opening of this academy will, I hope, help improve the quality of life of refugees in this camp,” said Choue. “I invite anyone in Zaatari who has an interest in physical fitness, sport or self-defense – be they young or old, male or female – to avail themselves of this facility.” Given that any humanitarian activity must be sustainable over the long-term, localization is key. For this reason the academy, which contains a taekwondo training hall and classrooms, is manned by four local Jordanian instructors. WTF Demonstration Team member Hong Shi-young remained in Jordan for two months to train the four in coaching techniques.

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Jordan is Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation’s First Destination

The four, who were chosen from among 20 applicants, are to teach taekwondo to Syrian refugees in both Zaatari, home to 79,000 refugees, and at the Al Azraq camp, home to 28,000. “Taekwondo is the perfect sport for refugees, many of whom have little to do all day, as it requires minimal equipment and minimal facilities,” said Usman Dildar, an Afghanistan-born taekwondo coach based in Saudi Arabia who carried out the WTF reconnaissance prior to the academy’s opening. “However, as a demanding exercise, an Olympic sport and a martial art, it delivers physical fitness, self-confidence, self-defense and self-belief.” Choue subsequently met three members of the Jordanian royal family – Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein and Prince Rashid bin El Hussein – on Dec. 2 to discuss aligning the taekwondo program with the current refugee-assistance programs of the Jordanian government. “The global refugee crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, and the plight of child refugees, as I have personally witnessed, is heart-rending,” Choue said. “As an Olympic federation, it is the WTF’s responsibility to be part of the solution, and the THF is our vehicle to do that.”

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Little Girl,

Big Spirit

From UNHCR Website: “If someone tries to harass me, I need to learn how to defend myself. My brother won’t be always around to protect me. I need to be independent.” Nine-year-old Solaf had only been in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan for a few days when she saw other children her age running around in white robes. Curious, she followed them around to camp to find 50 boys and two girls participating in taekwondo training. She knew instantly she had to join them. “When I saw the movements the kids were doing, I knew that was something I wanted to learn.” Her parents support their multitalented daughter and raise her to realize she can achieve anything she wants to in life. And they’ve long known Solaf possesses a confidence not common in girls her age. With tears of pride in his eyes, her father told us of her strength back home in Syria: “During a demonstration, she spoke to a camera while holding a rocket. She said, ‘This is how you treat the children of Syria?’ She was just 5 years old, but her message was strong.” Solaf’s curiosity and spirit continue to fuel her, even in exile. She’s also training in football and volleyball. And we can’t wait to see what’s next for her – go Solaf!

Part 1 | Social Responsibility

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Pilot Project

2

Syrian Refugee Camp in Turkey is WTF’s Second Humanitarian Mission Turkey is leveraging its strong infrastructure in taekwondo to help refugees in Kilis 28

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he World Taekwondo Federation announced the expansion of its humanitarian project to Kilis, Turkey, as it aims to use taekwondo to bring hope and joy to people in refugee camps around the world. The decision was made after WTF President Chungwon Choue visited the Oncupinar Accommodation Center in Kilis, situated near Turkey’s border with Syria on Jan. 15, 2016. The WTF leader made the visit with European Taekwondo Union President Athanasios Pragalos and Turkish Taekwondo Federation President Metin Sahin ahead of the European Qualification Tournament for Rio 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. The Turkish Taekwondo Federation has been successfully operating a taekwondo

program in the camp for the past two years. There are currently 60 students learning taekwondo, which not only keeps them physically active but teaches them respect, self-discipline and understanding. After his visit to the camp, Choue said: “We are delighted to announce that the WTF will make this center a WTF-run Taekwondo Academy.” “The Turkish Taekwondo Federation has been doing a fantastic job with its taekwondo program in Kilis and working with them we will ensure that it has all the materials and instructors required,” he continued. “We will continue to work hard and contribute to global sustainable development.” During Choue’s visit, new taekwondo

uniforms and shoes were distributed to young Syrian refugees aged between 10 and 14 who demonstrated the taekwondo techniques they have learnt. The Oncupinar Accommodation Center was established in March 2012 for 15,000 refugees. That number has reached 25,000 with a second stage of the facility having been built. The WTF initiated its first pilot project in Syrian refugee camps of Zaatari and Azraq in Jordan in December 2015. After the Turkish project, the WTF turned its attention to Nepal in early 2016. The expansion of the WTF projects will continue; the WTF is currently considering refugee camps in Ghana, Ethiopia, Colombia and Greece as future locations for WTF taekwondo academies.

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Warm Welcome and “Heartbreaking” Devastation

Pilot Project

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In Nepal, Warm Welcome and ‘Heartbreaking’ Devastation A high-level WTF delegation, on a fact-finding mission to the Himalayan nation, was warmly welcomed by national leaders. But at ground-zero, the extent of the destruction wreaked by 2015’s earthquakes made clear the urgency of their mission

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welve-year-old Raja Khadka will never forget the day the earth shook. “I was in the forest when I heard a sound that I thought was a helicopter – but there was no helicopter,” he said, recalling the murderous earthquake of April 2015. “I ran and I ran. I found my father, but our home had been totally destroyed. There was a buffalo wandering in the ruins …” It was with the aim of helping children like Raja – as well as their parents - that a high-powered WTF delegation, led by President Chungwon Choue, set off for Nepal on Jan. 29, 2016 for a seven-day fact-finding tour. Mission members included, Asian Taekwondo Union (ATU) President Kyu-seok Lee, European Taekwondo Union (ETU) President Athanasios Pragalos, Oceania Taekwondo Union (OTU) President John Kotsifas, WTF Advisor Chang-shin Choi and WTF Lausanne

Office Director General Roger Piarulli as well as WTF staffers and the WTF Demonstration Team. The WTF has already established pilot programs for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey. Nepal presents a different problem: People displaced and disempowered not by political strife, but by natural disaster. The fact-finding mission was designed to see how the WTF can help in such situations, assisting physical and psychological recovery by empowering survivors with taekwondo. Nepal will provide a benchmark for future programs in disaster zones elsewhere. The delegation got straight down to business. Within hours of touching down in Kathmandu, they were motorcaded to the official residence of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli. There, the prime minister thanked the delegation for their visit, and discussed the country’s plans for an official national sport – taekwondo is one candidate for the position, vying with cricket and volleyball. Choue briefed him on the WTF mission. The following day, the mission visited Kathmandu’s downtown historical district. Shown around by a tourist guide, they met citizens, merchants and policemen - even a “living goddess” resident in a major Hindu temple. Members of the WTF Demonstration Team took the

opportunity to show some moves, and there was humor when one team member came under attack from a mischievous monkey. But despite the bustle, color and general air of good cheer, earthquake damage was impossible to miss. A 12th century temple, utterly pulverized, lay in a heap of ruins. Huge cracks defaced the architecture of the palace. Many buildings displayed similar damage, scaffolding propped up historic sites, and piles of rubble and building materials lay everywhere. “It was very sad that some historical temples and buildings have gone; hopefully, they can be

slowly repaired, but it won’t be the same,“ said OTU President Kotsifas. “One thing we did notice was the friendship and spirt of the Nepalese people: It was high and positive. I am pretty confident that that spirit will see you through this difficult time.” ATU President Lee added that he was “heartbroken” by what he had seen. “This morning I saw some of the sights of the destruction of the earthquake near the old palace,” a shaken Choue told a press conference later that day, before vowing, “We will support you.” That evening, a reception dinner was held at the Annapurna Hotel: among the guests were ministers and MPs, as well as sports and taekwondo officials. One particularly honored guest was the remarkable Anuradha Koirala, dubbed a “CNN Hero” in 2010 and winner of the “Mother Teresa” award in 2014. The NGO she heads, Maiti Nepal, rescues and

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Warm Welcome and “Heartbreaking” Devastation

rehabilitates Nepalese girls trafficked to brothels. At the reception, the tiny lady – who founded the organization after herself suffering domestic abuse – thanked Choue and Lee for their work; Maiti Nepal is empowering victims of human trafficking by teaching them taekwondo. The next day, the mission embarked in vehicles for a three-hour drive through scenic hills and valleys to the worst-hit area of the country: Sindhupalchwok district. What awaited the mission in the

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district town of Khadi Chaur, set in a valley overlooked by steep-sided mountains, was astounding. The little town’s main street was lined with cheering schoolchildren attired in taekwondo tracksuits. Traditional dancers and a band playing giant brass trumpets serenaded the delegation, while townspeople cheered from streets, shops - even rooftops. As delegation members proceeded through the packed crowd, their necks were draped in garlands - scarves

and floral necklaces. At the Shree Shikchha Higher Secondary School sports field, huge crowds waited as the WTF officials and local and national VIPs mounted the dais. In an impassioned welcoming speech, Nepalese Sports and Youth Minister Shatya Narayan Mandal reminded the crowd of the power of sport. “All around the world people know Messi even if they don’t know who the president of Argentina is,” he said, referring to the legendary footballer. “This shows that sport can be more powerful than politics.” He then handed over the rostrum to the WTF leader.

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Warm Welcome and “Heartbreaking” Devastation

“We are here to support you, we are specially here to support this region, and we are here to support your children,” Choue said. “I saw the young practitioners’ eyes, and saw how eager they are to learn taekwondo.” After another speech by Nepalese Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun, the project was officially inaugurated. A check for US$10,000, 300 taekwondo uniforms and three boxes of kicking pads were presented to local officials, before plaques of appreciation and citations were handed to Nepalese VIPs. Then the WTF Demonstration Team took to the field, performing high-altitude board breaks, self-defense techniques and gymnastic moves – spiced up with a funky routine to the latest Psy hit,

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“Daddy” and some Nepalese-inspired dance moves. They drew laughs, cheers and applause. They were followed by traditional Nepalese dancers. The delegation reboarded their transport and continued driving. Across the district, 3,640 people were killed by the April 2015 earthquake; 20,000 were injured; and 70,000 homes were badly damaged. While the town did not appear heavily impacted, scenes several miles up the road were staggering. Buildings in all villages were interspersed with piles of rubble. In a surreal sight, houses, pylons and trees had subsided into a river. The convoy passed through a kilometer-long stretch of what looked like a lunar landscape – pile after pile of colossal boulders. The result of a calamitous landslide, it was a scene of almost Biblical destruction. “I had never been in an earthquake zone before today,” said OTU President Kotsifas. “I was overwhelmed and shocked.” On their penultimate day, the delegation visited the Nepal National Police Academy for a performance by the WTF Demonstration Team together with senior police officers. They also met Pushpa Kamal Dahal, former prime minister and

chairman of the United Nepal Communist Party, to exchange opinions on how to further develop taekwondo in Nepal. On their final day in-country, the delegation was received by the president of Nepal. “Taekwondo is a very popular sport in our country,” said President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, referring to the 65,000 practitioners in Nepal. “Taekwondo is not only a sport, but also it is education, which helps form a new well-disciplined generation.” She thanked Choue for WTF moves to help resolve the global refugee crisis. “I think the global migration issue, which has hit Europe hard, will soon affect South Asia,” she said. “In this regard, the WTF’s humanitarian project will be very helpful.” During their meeting, Choue briefed her on the delegation’s mission, asked her to support taekwondo’s adoption as a national sport and presented her with a 9th-dan honorary black belt. “We had a very successful pilot project here in Nepal,” he said. “The project will soon be in full swing, assisting earthquake victims - especially children.” Throughout the trip, the delegation had been graciously received, not just by elite officials, but also by ordinary people.

“A lot of people are under stress right now; young people need to have their confidence back and feel there is something contributing to their physical and mental health,” said Prajeena Karmacharya, a Nepalese citizen based in Canada who was revisiting her home country. “So taekwondo, as a well-renowned sport, can help overcome the mental stress, build confidence and help people come together.” Those include 12-year-old Raja Khadka, the little boy who lost his home. A taekwondo practitioner, he considered it “a very good and disciplined sport.” What were his thoughts on meeting such a high-profile delegation visiting his hometown? “I am very, very happy,” he said. With the pilot project inaugurated, it is now incumbent upon the WTF to deliver hope and dreams to thousands of Nepalese - by giving them a gift that will build their physiques, forge their characters and help them overcome their traumas. That responsibility was fully understood by Choue. “This is just the beginning,” the WTF leader promised. “There will be more help in the future - more help in the coming days.”

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Banker Donates Profits, Song to Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation The WTF’s new treasurer is a banker, a martial artist, a musician and a philanthropist ...

WTF Head Urges Creation of Sport Peace Corps At a high-profile seminar in Turkmenistan, President Choue urged other sports to follow taekwondo’s lead and dispatch missions to developing nations

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t a launch event in Seoul on Jan. 29, 2016, a prominent investment banking executive previewed his second music album and announced that profits from the work would be donated to the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation. Seoul-based John Walker, Chair of the Marketing Committee of the World Taekwondo Federation and recently appointed WTF treasurer, is Chairman of Macquarie Group of Companies, Korea. Beyond his career in finance, the energetic Australian is a practicing martial artist, a published children’s book author and a singer-songwriter. “Flying Butterflies,” a song on Walker’s new “Rain Dreaming” album, was specially written as the theme song for the WTF’s Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, which aims to TAEKWONDO Official Publication of the WTF

empower refugees and displaced persons worldwide with the exercise, discipline, martial art and Olympic sport of taekwondo. “The refugee crisis facing the world today is one of the greatest challenges in history and it will require both the hardware and software of aid to resolve,” Walker said. “The THF is an important contribution to the software of aid where children can be helped see that there is a future and that values and education can help provide this future. I am really keen for “Rain Dreaming” to play its part in providing that better future. All profits from the sale of “Rain Dreaming” are being donated to support children in refugee camps, including projects operated by the THF. Walker had previously donated profits from his first album to Asian charities. The launch event for “Rain Dreaming” was held at restaurant “Piece” in Bangbae, in Seoul’s trendy Gangnam district, with prominent locals and expatriates in attendance. While WTF Director General Jin-bang

Yang attended, WTF President Chungwon Choue was absent. Dr. Choue and a team of WTF executives were, that day, en route to Nepal to meet the country’s president and to carry out a reconnaissance for its pilot project in the earthquake-ravaged nation. “I apologize for being unable to attend the launch, but extend my very sincere thanks to John, who has so generously donated profits – and even a song – from his new album to the THF,” Choue said in a special message. “John’s selfless generosity is highly encouraging as we get the foundation up and running.” Walker performed several songs from his latest release and a range of pieces from his debut album “12 Bridges.” The lyrics of the “Rain Dreaming” songs focus on the sensations and experiences of travelers who leave home and acquire new experiences. “Rain Dreaming” can be found on itunes, Amazon and Spotify or on the website www. raindreaming.com.

training and education. Through the Sport Peace Corps, young people would gain a greater understanding of different cultures and nations and learn to live healthier lifestyles. These values are closely aligned with those of the IOC and the U.N. and the WTF has begun discussions with the two global organizations about supporting the initiative. Speaking after his presentation, WTF President Choue said: “Since I took over as president of the WTF in 2004, I have strongly believed in the principle that sport should act as a vehicle to promote friendship, respect, and peace. As an Olympic sport, we have been committed to working with the IOC to promote the Olympic values through-

out the world. “Sport can bring hope and inspire people from the most deprived countries and communities. As we have seen under the IOC’s leadership, we as a movement are stronger when we are united and I humbly call on the IOC, the U.N. and all International Federations to unite behind the Sport Peace Corps. Together, we can inspire hope and create a better and more harmonious future.” The WTF are looking to build on the success of the WTF Taekwondo Peace Corps which was first launched in 2008 to instil self-awareness and discipline in young people. Since 2008 around 1,300 volunteers have been dispatched to over 100 countries worldwide.

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orld Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Chungwon Choue has called for the support of the IOC, the U.N. and International Federations to help make a “Sport Peace Corps” a reality during a speech at the 2015 Turkmenistan International Sports Media Forum (TISMF) on April 3, 2015. Speaking just three days ahead of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, President Choue outlined his vision for the Sport Peace Corps and its potential to promote peace and development around the world. The Sport Peace Corps would comprise coaches, athletes and educators who would be dispatched to assigned communities to provide sports equipment,

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WTF President Meets with U.N. Secretary General for Discussions on Creating Sport Peace Corps

WTF President Chungwon Choue was invited by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the U.N. headquarters in New York on April 6, 2015 to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. President Choue joined IOC President Thomas Bach and a number of high-level delegates, including IPC President Sir Phillip Craven and IOC member Angela Ruggiero in New York as they discussed the increasingly important role sport has in bringing about positive change around the world. During an event called “United Ac-

tion Towards Sustainable Development For All Through Sport,” Bach called for sport to be included in U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Choue attended a private meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban after the event to discuss the Sport Peace Corps concept and how it could help contribute to building a fairer, more equal and peaceful society. Speaking after the meeting, Choue said: “I am very grateful to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for giving up some

of his valuable time to meet with me today. We had a very productive meeting and we are all in agreement that sport has a unique power to create a more peaceful future.” “It is my hope that soon, with the support of the U.N., the IOC and all the International Federations, we will be able to launch the Sport Peace Corps to harness this immense power and bring hope and harmony to some of the world’s most deprived countries and communities,” he added. Part 1 | Social Responsibility

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Part

2 Meet the Elite

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Part 2 | Road to Rio

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Qualified For Rio 2016

Road to Rio: Walking the Path For taekwondo’s elite, the year 2015 was a grueling one as they fought to win a berth for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Here is a run-down on taekwondo’s qualification process

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he countdown has begun: Across the world, taekwondo’s fighting elite are gearing up for the game of their lives at the world’s greatest sporting event: the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Olympic taekwondo is scheduled for Aug. 17-20, 2016 in Carioca Arena 3, a purpose-built, combat sport-specialized arena in Rio’s Barra Olympic Park. The 8,000-seat venue will also host fencing and paralympic judo. On the mats, 128 taekwondo fighters, fighting in eight weight categories – four male (-58kg, -68kg, -80kg, +80kg) and four female (-49kg, -57kg, -67kg, +67kg) – will do battle for Olympic medals. So who is going? The first tranche of 48 elite athletes won Rio quota places for their National Olympic Committees via ranking points accumulated after the 2015 Grand Prix Finals held in

Mexico City, in December 2015. Each NOC could qualify a maximum of one athlete per weight category. Although it seems likely that most of the athletes who won their NOCs the berths will appear on the mats in Rio, that is not certain; the final decision on who will actually fill the slots is up to national selectors. Those NOCs which qualified less than two male and two female athletes via ranking points are eligible for the second tranche of Rio berths, fought for at the Continental Qualification Tournaments. These five tournaments offer 72 Rio slots. Each NOC is able to qualify a maximum of two male and two female athletes (with a maximum of one fighter per weight category). The continental quotas break down to: 16 athletes each from Africa, Asia, Europe and Pan America; and eight from Oceania.

2016 host nation Brazil benefited from an automatic quota of four host-country places: two male (-58kg and +80kg) and two female (-49kg and -57kg). Finally Tripartite Commission Invitations - better known as “wild cards” – offer a further four fighters the chance of Olympic glory in those categories not chosen by Brazil (ie male -68kg and -80kg, and female -67kg and +67kg). The seeded athletes in each taekwondo weight division will be announced on or after July 18, 2016, on the WTF website. In the pages to come, we talk to the game’s top figures to ask who they will be watching most closely. We then introduce profiles, written over the course of the 2015 fighting season, of some of the athletes who have won quota places for Rio. So: Turn the page and meet the elite …

Olympic Taekwondo: It’s a Family Affair

WTF officials like to talk about the “global taekwondo family” – and a number of high-kicking families have, indeed, won Olympic quota places. First to go through were Croatia’s Zaninovic sisters, who both qualified through Olympic ranking points. Although they are twins, they fight at different weights: Lucija fights in the female -49kg class, while Ana fights in the female -57kg

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category. At the Oceania Qualification Tournament for the Rio Olympics held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on February 27, 2016, an even-bigger family unit qualified. Sisters Caroline and Carmen Marton, together with Carmen’s husband Safwan Khalil, all won Olympic places for Australia. Caroline Marton won a berth in the female -57kg category, Carmen Marton captured a spot in the female -67kg division, while the latter’s spouse, Safwan Khalil, won a place in the male -58kg category. All three, incidentally, are coached by Ali Khalil - Safwan’s brother. At the same tournament, Papua New Guinea’s Samantha Kassman won a place in the female -67kg category, while team mate Maxemillion Kassman captured a

berth in the male +80kg division. Those identical surnames are no coincidence; Samantha is Maxemillion’s aunt. And while only one of Moldova’s Cook brothers won an Olympic quota place, via Olympic ranking points, both will be in Rio: Older brother Luke is the coach of younger brother Aaron, who fights in the male -80kg division. Incidentally, Luke will not be the only one keeping a very close eye on Aaron’s progress in Rio: The latter’s long-term girlfriend, Bianca Walkden, has also won an Olympic quota place for GB in the female +67kg class. At time of publication – with the Pan American Continental Qualification Tournament still pending – it is not clear if any members of taekwondo’s most famed combat clan, the legendary Lopez family of the USA, will be gracing the 2016 Olympics.

(As of end-Feb, 2016; Asian and Pan American Qualification Tournaments Pending)

No.

NOC

No. of Berths

By WTF Olympic Ranking

European Qualification Tournament

African Qualification Tournament

1

Korea

5

W-49, W-67, M-58, M-68, M+80

N/A

N/A

N/A

2

France

4

M+80, W-49, W-67, W+67

0

N/A

N/A

3

Mexico

4

M-58, M-68, W-49, W+67

N/A

N/A

N/A

4

Great Britain

4

W-57, W+67, M-80

M+80

N/A

N/A

5

Azerbaijan

4

W-49, W-57, M-80

N/A

6 Brazil (Host Nation) 4 (M-58,+80/W-49,-57)

M+80 0

N/A N/A

Oceania Qualification Tournament

N/A N/A

7 Australia

4

N/A

N/A

N/A

8

Iran

3

M-58, M-80, M+80

N/A

N/A

N/A

9

Russia

3

M-68, M-80, W-67

0

N/A

N/A

10

Croatia

3

W-49, W-57

M-68

N/A

N/A

11

Germany

3

M-58, M-80

W-67

N/A

N/A

12

Spain

3

M-68, W-57

M-58

N/A

N/A

13

Morocco

3

N/A

N/A

M-58, W+67, W-57

N/A

14

Cote d’ivoire

3

M-80

N/A

W-67, W+67

N/A

15

Egypt

3

W-57

N/A

W-67, M-68

N/A

16

Tunisia

3

N/A

N/A

M-80, M+80, W-57

N/A

17

Belgium

2

M-58, M-68

0

N/A

N/A

18

China

2

W-49, W+67

N/A

N/A

N/A

19

Sweden

2

W-57 ,W-67

0

N/A

N/A

20

Poland

2

N/A

M-68, M-80

N/A

N/A

21 Serbia

2

W+67

W-49

N/A

N/A

22

Turkey

2

M-68, W-67

0

N/A

N/A

23

Papua New Guinea

2

0

N/A

N/A

W+67, M-68

25

Chinese Taipei

1

W-67

N/A

N/A

N/A

26 Gabon

1

M+80

N/A

0

N/A

27 Japan

1

W-57

N/A

N/A

N/A

28 Moldova

1

M-80

0

N/A

N/A

29 Portugal

1

M-58

0

N/A

N/A

30 Thailand

1

W-49

N/A

N/A

N/A

31 USA

1

W+67

N/A

N/A

N/A

32 Uzbekistan

1

M+80

N/A

N/A

N/A

33 Belarus

1

N/A

M+80

N/A

N/A

34 Finland

1

N/A

W-57

N/A

N/A

35 Israel

1

N/A

M-58

N/A

N/A

36 Netherlands

1

0

W+67

N/A

N/A

37 Norway

1

N/A

W+67

N/A

N/A

38

Cape Verde

1

N/A

N/A

W-49

N/A

39

DR. Congo

1

N/A

N/A

W-49

N/A

40 Libya

1

N/A

N/A

M-58

N/A

41 Niger

1

N/A

N/A

M+80

N/A

42 Senegal

1

N/A

N/A

M-68

N/A

43 Mali

1

N/A

N/A

M-80

N/A

44

WTF (Refugee)

1

N/A

W-57

N/A

N/A

45

New Zealand

1

N/A

N/A

N/A

W-49 M+80

46 Tonga

1

0

N/A

N/A

Total

92

48

16

16

W-57, W-67, M-58, M-80

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Part 2 | Road to Rio

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Who are the top fighters in today’s taekwondo? This is how the sport sees the sport ... As taekwondo gears up for the 2016 Summer Games, we asked some of the sport’s top players, coaches, pundits and officials which stars will be in the spotlight in Rio. Our interviewees were asked to name two players, with only one qualification: Nobody could choose a player from his/her own nation. So, here we present how those on the front lines of taekwondo’s top-level competitions see their peers …

For the men’s team, it has to be the Iranians: In the -58 and -80 categories, they have really good fighters! But for me, the best two male fighters are Servet Tazegul (Turkey) and Alexey Denisenko (Russia). Their fight at the European Championships in Baku was a classic.

Dragan Jovic (Coach, Serbia): Among the women, I like Lucija Zaninovic (Croatia). She is a long-time, high level athlete, and she never steps back. She is a very dominant fighter: For her, every fight is a fight for life! For the men, it has to be Mahdi Khodabakhshi (Iran). When you see him fight, you have to ask, “How can he get all those points?” And they all look so easy - no stress! He can win a point from every position.

Luke Cook (Coach, Moldova): Gary Hall (Performance Director, Great Britain): I like Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah (Iran). He is ultra-modern in the way he plays the game – his front leg and his tenacity on the PSS are really good. The pace he sets in the game is really strong: not many people can go with that pace! And he forces mistakes on his opposition. He is young and he is new and modern. Alexey Denisenko (Russia) is outstanding; over two years, he has not lost many times, though he lost in the final of the World Championships to Servet Tazegul (Turkey). He is a clinical deliverer of modern techniques. He can jump and get out of your way and come downward with a kick on your body pad - really clever!

Ali Sagirkaya (WTF Auditor, ETU Council Member and Turkish Taekwondo Federation International Coordinator, Turkey): Aaron Cook (Moldova). I like his style. He uses all the techniques, all the taekwondo techniques, and he has fighting spirit: he never backs up! And he is so gentlemanly. He is one of the best athletes, but one of the humble athletes. Great personality! He always respects. That shows to the world the philosophy of taekwondo - that is very important for us. And among the women, Brigitte Yague Enrique (Spain). She has been in it for years and she is always fighting at the top level. Athletes all have a curve – they are up and down - but Brigitte is always on the upper level. If you look at her age and her fighting spirit, you see how great an athlete she is.

Mike Mckenzie (WTF TV Commentator, Great Britain): Mahdi Khodabakhshi (Iran). He has amazing strength, ring presence and technique. The ring presence is where you look and expect to score. He may be five or six points down but he can

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get it back and look comfortable in that situation. The way he dominated the World Championships, I think, is a sign of things to come. The men’s -80kg category is so strong, and for him to stand out in it, is phenomenal. In that division, any one of the athletes on any given day could win a championship or an Olympic medal. Among the women, Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin (Iran) is one to watch out for. She is tall, very tall for the category, and very strong and very young; she has just come up from the juniors. I have seen her in open championships, she is already giving Jade Jones (GB) and Eva Calvo Gomez (Spain) good matches. She is a dark horse. I have always been a fan of Iranian taekwondo. They are all unique athletes but they have a drive and determination, they are tactically clever and adaptable and they coach well.

Road to Rio: Stars to Watch

Road to Rio: Stars to Watch

Milica Mandic (Athlete, Serbia):

From the old guard: Servet Tazegul (Turkey). He just does not give a flying monkey’s - he goes in there! He wants to make it a fight, he is exciting to watch. He has all the techniques. The spins! The double spins! He is what taekwondo should be: Come and watch this! And his CV is full; he has won European, World and Olympic championships. And I would have to go for Mahdi Khodabakhshi (Iran). He is very inventive and deceptive in his way of hiding his techniques, he has great reflexes, he is very versatile. You think you can attack down here (gestures) - then he will spin and go up to the top. He is a bit cheeky too: He has fun in the ring, he has a lot of character. And a lot of fighters need to invent a character. A lot of fighters are very simple in their techniques, there is this “parking the bus” mentality. A lot of fighters have just spoiling techniques, they try and shut people down as they don’t have skills in attack. Sport should be entertainment! That puts bums on seats and the more bums on seats, the more exposure; the more publicity, the more that can be earned from it. The fighters should be thinking more positively, more aggressively.

Aaron Cook (Athlete, Moldova): I like Jaouad Achab (Belgium). He has got that mix of old-school and new-school taekwondo, he is strong and explosive, really good - he brings out the best in taekwondo. And among the women, Brigitte Yague Enrique (Spain). She is so technically good - the way she moves is really good to watch. She has that old -school style, but she is making it work in the new-school style.

Carlos Navarro (Athlete, Mexico): I would have to definitely say Aaron Cook (Moldova) – he likes to fight! He also looks very baaaaad! He wants to win. That’s what I like! And probably Rafael Castillo (Cuba). He likes to fight. He has many variations, he can kick the face, he can spin and he is very aggressive. Part 2 | Road to Rio

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I choose Mahdi Khodabakhshi (Iran) and Aaron Cook (Moldova) because their technical level is so high and I try to learn in every fight I watch. When I watch those two, I learn new things from them.

Dmitriy Shokin (Athlete, Uzbekistan): I like the Iranian fighters. I like Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah (Iran). It does not matter how many times he puts up his leg, every time he gets a point! I like his tactics - he is a very strong athlete. And one more I like is Mahdi Khodabakhshi (Iran).

Kook-hyun Jung (WTF Technical Committee Head, Korea) Aaron Cook (Moldova). He is very stable player in his stance and when he kicks. He showed so many varied techniques, kicking, feints, steps, combination kicks. Wonderful! He is fast and powerful and his ring management is excellent. I like his style. And Carlos Navarro (Mexico). He is very aggressive, even if he did not need a point he attacked, performed techniques on the opponent. He has fitness he has game management, he has technique – his back kick is really good. And he is very young so he has great potential in international games in the future.

Philippe Bouedo (WTF Games Committee Head, France) I like Aaron Cook (Moldova) and Servet Tazegul (Turkey). They are very exciting, they are totally in the spirt of the new rules. After Beijing 2008, we decided to try to make it more active. Back at that time, a lot of people tried to save time, but under the new rules, if you don’t want to fight, you are penalized. All the rules now are made to make players fight and fight and fight. For me, Cook and Tazegul are the two most active players, they have fighting spirt, they have totally crazy techniques! Even when they have a big score in advance, they fight the match from beginning to end. This is the kind of game I like - and because of these athletes, people all over the world will know taekwondo.

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(China). She is so smart, she is on another level. She is very strong, very good and when I see her fight I understand what she wants to do and I learn from her.

Road to Rio: Stars to Watch

Nafia Kus (Athlete, Turkey):

Jin-bang Yang (WTF Director General, Korea) Among the males, I like Alexey Denisenko (Russia). He is a good fighter and he is not only staying with his own habits - he creates some strange style! That is his good point. For the females, Jingyu Wu (China). She is absolutely the best in fighting at this time. She shows everything – mental game, physical game style, fighting pattern – that means, the template for the fight - and strategy.

Usman Dildar (Vice Chairman, WTF Games Committee, Great Britain) Aaron Cook (Moldova). That guy has not got the support or training partners of a national team to prepare for the competition, but what he comes up with in every competition, training in the back of his shed to face world-class athletes - it is amazing! I know he has gone to Moldova, but there is no structure for him in terms of team support to have a dedicated coach or physio. From his fights, the problem he had was distancing and that is due to lack of sparring partners. But he is a champion and a hero of taekwondo. Once that situation is facilitated he will be one of the best in the world. And I like Lucija Zaninovic (Croatia) she is adapting and changing all the time. She is very dedicated, she has been through a lot, she is determined and committed to the sport.

Albert Gaun (Athlete, Russia) Among the women, Milica Mandic (Serbia). She is Serbian, and Serbians and Russian are brothers all the time – or sisters! She has very good concentration and I like her emotion in the fight. For the men, Milos Gladovic (Serbia). He is a young talent, with very good stamina, very good footwork. And he has no single technique - bam! bam! bam! Very good turning kicks!

Jaouad Achab (Athlete, Belgium)

Marco Ienna (WTF Staffer, Sport Department, Italy)

Aaron Cook (Moldova). He works very hard to win and always wants to be the best. He is the best in sports and in his normal life. Inside the mats and outside he works very hard and he does everything to win. He has had a lot of problems but he does not give up he continues fighting and is still doing very good. We fought on the same day at the European. That was a very big day for me and for him and we had a lot of fun after, we said, “We will try to make the same day at the Olympics!” And Jingyu Wu

For me, Servet Tazegul (Turkey). You know from the past he has seen the changes in all kinds of PSS protectors – but he is still on the top of the athletes in his category. And he can change his skills with no problem. He is not competing just to take points, he is very active and shows all the skills of taekwondo. And for the girls, Jingyu Wu (China). I saw her at the Grand Prix Series 3 in Manchester: She won almost all the fights by point gap, she is still very strong and she can show all the skills - she is

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Jingyu Wu (Athlete, China) Steve Lopez (USA). In 2007 I started to watch his competitions. I felt that he was very good and he is always a gentleman when he talks to me. He is older than me – almost 10 years – but he always fights taekwondo for so many years, he never gives up! Spirit is very important and I like his spirit. Jade Jones (GB). I like the feeling during her competitions - her stance, her look. From Jones’ eyes, she never gives up and is never scared. She is always focused on the competition - on the fight!

Jade Jones (Athlete, GB) Jingyu Wu (China). She has that air of confidence, she never looks fazed; she is totally focused. She is on another level. And Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah (Iran). I like his style of fighting: Very aggressive, always putting pressure on his opponent. That’s fighting attitude!

Haby Niare (Athlete, France) I love Hedaya Malak (Egypt). She is so nice with all the other people and she is a good fighter - she has elastic legs, I love it! Among the men, I like Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah (Iran). When he is fighting, he gives all he has and he is so humble.

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Lutalo Muhammad (Athlete, GB)

Road to Rio: Stars to Watch

not competing with just the front leg. She is not that young: She competed in Beijing, this will be her third Olympics, but she is still competing in very good condition. She tries to be spectacular, to show all the taekwondo skills. In my opinion, she is on a level above all the other athletes.

Jingyu Wu (China)! She is absolutely incredible to watch, so exiting: She does all the exciting kicks that you see in the men’s -80kg. The fact that she is a double Olympic champ and on the way to a third gold – wow! I love watching her. She is a step above all the rest. Among the men, Alexey Denisenko (Russia). He is very versatile, he pulls out a lot of head shots from unusual positions. I admire the way he kicks, he is a really good technician and he usually has high scoring matches. And he is genuinely down-to-earth person, really cool; I like that about him.

Denis Sekretev (WTF Photographer, Russia/France) Aaron Cook (Moldova), because he is so spectacular. I think he is the most effective athlete when it comes to KOs in championships - for me, for my job, it is a challenge to capture the moment! Jingyu Wu (China) because in the womens’ style of fighting she is spectacular, not just the cutting kick. It seems nobody can beat her.

Mehdi Bibak (Coach, Iran): Alexey Denisenko (Russia). He is my favorite player, he is smart: You have one mistake in the match and he can kill anybody! He is a really good performer in the fight – this is my ideal player. And Jingyu Wu (China). Amazing! When I saw her training, she checks all the boxes about taekwondo players she knows what she can do in a fight – attack, counter-attack. I think she has more chances for a gold medal. This girl she can get the gold, she has so much distance from other players. I cannot say that about any other player.

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

Jingyu Wu

I

t was one of those curious coincidences that could only happen in real life – for if it had occurred in literature, it would have been unbelievable.

Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

CHINA

Jingyu Wu

Olympic Joy: From Fiction to Fact Double Olympic gold medalist Jingyu Wu hopes to win a third in Rio. Remarkably, her Olympic victories were foretold in the movies before they became reality...

In 2003, Jingyu Wu, then an unknown, provincial-level taekwondo player, was chosen to play a bit part in a movie. Named “Taekwondo” and starring well-known Chinese actress Tao Hong, the film told the story of a girl who becomes an Olympic champion in the sport. Wu played the star as a youth in a role that gave her perhaps five minutes of screen time. “I was just a common athlete at the time,” Wu recalls. “Just a little girl.” Fast forward five years to 2008 and the Beijing Olympics. When the dust had settled in the arena, the girl from Jiangxi Province who had played a filmic taekwondo champion was wearing a real-life Olympic gold medal around her neck. Reality had mirrored fiction. Wu repeated her gold medal heroics in London 2012, and, in the female -49kg category the diminutive Chinese is the favorite for a third gold in Rio 2016. That would ensure her a page in the history books as the first taekwondo player ever to earn three Olympic golds. She may be the most dominant female player in the sport. Her footwork is superlative and her timing almost supernatural, making her appear one step ahead of her opponents. She prefers the front-leg kick, but has extraordinary flexibility, and is able to score from any height and angle – a talent which has earned her the nickname “Superkicker.” Taekwondo pundits are in awe at her mastery of the game. “She shows everything – mental game, physical game, style, fighting pattern – that means, the template for the fight – and strategy,” said WTF Director General Jin-bang Yang. “She tries to be spectacular, to show all the taekwondo skills,” added another taekwondo watcher. “In my opinion, she is on a level above all the other athletes.” Yet on the mats, she does not express the passion of many athletes; in the eye of the storm, she maintains an icy composure. “I am very calm,” she admits. So is she standoffish?

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No. Despite her towering skill, Wu is tiny in stature. In person, she displays real charm, fiddling with the flowers on the table during the interview, frequently beaming with a shy, girlish grin. She has adopted the English name “Joy” – a direct translation of her Chinese name, Jingyu – and it is appropriate: She epitomizes the quality, albeit in a quiet, understated manner. Wu’s taekwondo story started at age 13. As a child she was raised by her grandmother in the town of Jingdezhen, famed as the porcelain capital of China, in Jiangxi Province. She was good at sports, and a particularly fast runner. One day, a taekwondo coach arrived at her school, scouting fresh talent. Someone suggested he take a look at Wu. The coach liked what he saw; Wu took up the sport; and after just two months training, she won the Jiangxi Provincial Championships. Not bad for a 13-year-old. So was she a natural talent? “You could say that,” she said – but credits her success to bitterly hard training. For three years, from 15-

18, she built a foundation by training a murderous 10 hours per day. “I used those three years,” she said. “Most people would need 10 years!” Due to her stature, she had to work extra hard. “At the beginning, nobody cared about me because I was very tiny, nobody thought I would be world champion.” she said. “I had to get stronger and fight everyone in every competition.” Even today, the double Olympic gold medalist still trains five hours daily. Like many fighters, she is not completely happy with the current game. “The PSS is a little sensitive, so you just need a front-leg kick, but that is not the real taekwondo, nobody likes to watch it,” she said. “I like to use the front leg but I do a lot of different things with it.” Although China boasts a universe of homegrown martial arts – ranging from hard systems patterned after animals such as tigers and eagles to the soft, philosophically influenced taijiquan – the country has enthusi-

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

Jingyu Wu ‘At the beginning, nobody cared about me because I was very tiny, nobody thought I would be world champion’

‘Choosing to do taekwondo was the best decision in my life’

‘After Rio, maybe I will retire, but competition is very, very precious to me, I want to enjoy every moment’

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astically embraced taekwondo. “There are almost 20,000 clubs across China,” she said. “A lot of children practice it, so it gets public recognition.”

Her selection by her peers as “the 2015 Fe-

The sport has been good to Wu. “Choosing to do taekwondo was the best decision in my life,” she said. Her husband of three years added ruefully, “She has two loves – taekwondo and me!” She has just one regret. When her grandmother – who had raised and taken care of the young Wu until she joined the Jiangxi Provincial Team – passed away, Wu was competing, so could not be there.

letes are in awe of her mastery of the sport

In addition to training, Wu teaches sport at Renmin University in Beijing and spends as much time as possible preaching to children and youth on the benefits of sport and Olympism. She also donates to, and supplies underprivileged children with sporting equipment. When presenting to youth, Wu tries to inspire them with her own life lessons. “First – train hard! Second – never give up!” she said. “A human being can do anything with self-belief.”

sit down with Team China to analyze all the

Her husband, Huo Kun, runs a company promoting Olympism, “Exceptional.” He possesses a large collection of Olympic memorabilia but admits that his most prized exhibits are Wu’s two gold medals - not to mention Wu herself.

There is also the matter of children. “I

The couple believes Wu’s Olympic destiny may have been set in the stars. “I was born on July 13, 1987,” she said. “That was a very important day for the Chinese Olympic movement, as we won the bid for the Beijing Olympics on July 13, 2001.” In London, she won gold on August 8, 2012; August 8, 2008, had been the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

I am not that good,” and cooking. (Her hus-

The duo have been befriended by IOC President Thomas Bach, who wrote the foreword for their jointly authored book “Olympic Love.”

male Player of the Year” at the National Theater in Mexico City, Mexico in December 2015 was no surprise. Virtually all her fellow athand say how likeable she is in person. Having won gold at the Mexico City 2015 Grand Prix Final in a convincing style, Wu has comfortably earned her NOC a spot in Rio. She still finds “hard training no problem,” but now she is 28 – an “advanced” age for an elite athlete – she is boxing clever: “The most important thing is technique and scientific fighting,” she said, adding that she will opposition. However, she admits she does not have the hunger for gold in Rio that she had in Beijing and London. So why is she competing? “Because I love taekwondo!” she said. “After Rio, maybe I will retire, but competition is very, very precious to me, I want to enjoy every moment. After I retire, there will be no more.” would like to have a baby,” she said. “One? Two? Three? Four? Five? Maybe one will be enough!” Beyond taekwondo, she enjoys hand arts, such as flower arranging, painting, “though band confirms that she is skilled in that area.) If she does retire, post-Rio, she will continue to teach sport, and would like to open a taekwondo school and coffee shop. “I want to relax after all the hard training,” she said. “So I will make the club near the coffee shop, and will be able to watch the taekwondo fighters!” The name of the club she envisions reflects her name, her outlook and her life experience: “Joy Taekwondo.”

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

KOREA

Dae-hoon Lee

‘I have very good eyes, good peripheral vision, so I can catch movement’

‘ ‘Dad loves it when I bring home medals!’

The WTF has selected its “Male Player of the Year” twice. But only one man has ever won the award – both times. That man is Team Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee ...

I

t was an awkward moment at the 2nd annual WTF Gala Awards show in Mexico’s National Theater.

With the “Male Player of the Year” award about to be announced, WTF President Chungwon Choue called last year’s awardee, Dae-hoon Lee, up to the stage to present it. Choue opened the envelope. He showed it to Lee. Lee looked, but remained silent. Seconds passed. The audience shifted in their seats. “Read it!” Choue urged, but Lee remained speechless - leaving Choue to announce the awardee. “I did not want to read it because it was my name – it was a bit weird!” Lee recalled, smiling. “At the first gala, I kind of thought I might be the winner, so I was a bit prepared, but this time I did not expect it at all so I was confused. I didn’t know what to say!”

‘Taekwondo is our national sport, but there are many international athletes doing very well who love taekwondo and I appreciate that’ 52

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Given that the Gala Awards are decided upon by peer vote, Lee is clearly a popular player. His humble mien and respect for his opponents may explain why he has won the “Male Player of the Year” award twice. “There is always a language barrier with other competitors, but I try to communicate with them as

I feel that we all want to be close,” he said. “Even when I win, I try to support the other competitors [on the podium].” And he has been in the game a long time. The Seoul native started his taekwondo journey early: His father ran a taekwondo gym, which became the tiny Lee’s de facto playground. “I just used to go with my parents, it was kind of a kindergarten, so I learned naturally,” he said. “Because of that, I was ahead of others at my age.” He competed (and won) his first competition at the age of 10, at an inter-dojang competition. His first formal win came at age 12, when he fought in a Seoul City tournament. Fast forward to the present, and the taekwondo toddler has reached his full potential as one of the top players in the sport. At home, the 24-year-old 4th dan fights on the KOGAS Team. Internationally, as a member of Team Korea, he won an Olympic silver medal in London in 2012, Asian Games gold in Incheon in 2014 and Asian Championships gold in the same year. 2015 proved to be another good season for Lee: He won Grand Prix silver in Moscow, bronze in Samsun and

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Dae-hoon Lee

golds in both Manchester and Mexico City. Those laurels were not easily won, because Lee fights in one of the most competitive categories in the game, the men’s -68kg. If taekwondo were a betting man’s sport, the odds between the division’s fighters would be razor thin: There is no clear favorite to win the division. Lee himself is ranked number one in the category; how does he see the rest of the field?

‘I am like a turtle: My personality and the way I do things is very slow, so people always tell me to hurry up - that ‘s why my fighting style is very relaxed’

TAEKWONDO Official Publication of the WTF

KOREA

‘There is always a language barrier with other competitors, but I try to communicate with them as I feel that we all want to be close’

‘Even when I win, I try to support the other athletes’

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

The number two is Belgium’s Jaouad Achab. “When I first saw him in the warm-up area, I watched him and thought, ‘He is a very smart fighter,’ and on the field of play, though he is not that physical, he plays a very smart game,” Lee said. Number three is Russian top gun Alexey Denisenko. “He is a very consistent fighter, very powerful and very controlled,” Lee reckoned. “He is a very hard competitor to beat.” Fourth-ranked in the category is Mexico’s Saul “The Spine” Gutierrez. “He has a good physique, but I don’t think he has reached his full potential yet,” Lee said. “I think in the Olympics he will reach that potential, so I am a bit worried about him.” Number five is the famous Servet “The Cheetah” Tazegul. “I have never fought him, I just saw his games, but I would like to compete with him,” Lee said. “I think he is a good player he has the ‘old style’ and he tries to make it stronger, he does not try to change it.” Rounding out the top six in the

division is the player who beat Lee for the gold in London 2012 - Spain’s Joel Gonzalez Bonilla. “I have not fought him recently but I have been doing better than him,” said Lee. “But I cannot figure out if I can beat him this time, especially in the early rounds.“ As an athlete, Lee is the full package. He is tall, slim and long-legged with excellent flexibility. He also has swift reactions: “I have very good eyes, good peripheral vision, so I can catch movement,” he said. A crowd-pleasing, offensive fighter, he likes turning kicks and the reverse turning kick – the iconic spinning heel kick – to the head. In the run-up to Rio, he will be taking time off from the KOGAS Team and from his studies – he is a graduate student at Seoul’s Yonsei University, studying sport, leisure and culture – and training full-time at the Korean National Training Center. On the conditioning front, he is prioritizing weight training for added strength. Tactically, he is working on “new offensive techniques.” In his downtime, he will be analyzing the opposition, and plans to keep his skills at their keenest pitch by competing in two, three or four open tourneys prior to departing for Brazil. As a national athlete representing his country at the Olympics in its national sport – customarily a medal treasure trove for Korea - Lee must, presumably be under significant pressure? Apparently not: “Taekwondo is

our national sport, but there are many international athletes doing very well who love taekwondo and I appreciate that,” he said. “So I don’t feel too much pressure.” However, there used to be pressure from his (now retired) first coach: His father. “In the past, he used to say, ‘In the next competition, you have to bring such and such a medal home,’ and I used to say, ‘I can’t always get top place,’ but he is now chilled out a bit,” he said. “But Dad loves it when I bring home medals.” The ability to put aside pressure may be the last piece in the Dae-hoon Lee jigsaw puzzle. The secret to his success may be a combination of natural talent, long experience and hard work – but it is also a result of having a cool head. For example, out of seven matches he has fought that have gone to golden point – taekwondo’s nerve-shredding equivalent of football’s penalty shootout - Lee has won six. Asked to describe himself, Lee comes up with an odd analogy – one that is even odder in a world where fighters usually prefer to be named after warriors, say, or big cats. “I am like a turtle: My personality and the way I do things is very slow, so people always tell me to hurry up,” he said. “That ‘s why my fighting style is very relaxed.”

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

MOLDOVA

Kick

Aaron Cook

Taekwondo’s Favorite Fighter Aims to Give Adopted Home First Gold The ‘Power Rangers’ inspired Aaron Cook to take up taekwondo - but can his televisual style win in the modern game?

F

or some, it was dreams of Olympic glory that first lured them to taekwondo. For others, it was the security of learning self-defense that drew them into the dojang. For Moldova’s Aaron Cook, the inspiration was provided by masked superheroes defending humanity from fearsome monsters. “When I was 5, the ‘Power Rangers’ were on TV and I liked the look of the kicks and all the stuff they were doing,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series 1 in Moscow, Russia on August 15. “When I was 7, my parents took me and (elder brother) Luke to a taekwondo school and it was love at first sight.” Today, the kid who wanted to be a real-life power ranger is one of the most admired players in taekwondo, frequently cited by his fellow athletes as their favorite fighter due to his constant use of the sport’s most spectacular techniques. A 4th dan black belt, he is the number-two ranked player in the (fiercely competitive) male -80kg category. However, the ups and downs he has endured in his taekwondo career have been more than enough to test the courage and perseverance of the doughtiest alien-fighting superhero. Born and raised in Dorchester, U.K., his early interest in taekwondo blossomed into talent

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and was soon delivering competitive success. He won a clutch of junior championships, then moved into the senior division, where he continued to bring home the medals. Among his standout competitive moments were knocking out five-time world champion and taekwondo legend Steve Lopez, and competing (and narrowly missing out on the medals) for GB at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the tender age of 17. In advance of London 2012, as a member of Team GB, Cook – boasting the perfect combination of good looks, winning personality and a mastery of taekwondo’s most crowd-pleasing techniques – seemed to have it all. Sponsors flocked to back the golden boy: Alliance, British Airways, Mars, Sky Sports and Visa. But when he was not chosen to represent his country at the 2012 London Olympics – national team selectors chose, instead, team-mate Lutalo Muhammad – Cook’s world disintegrated. “I was devastated, I could not believe it, I was certain I would go, I was the world number one, I was the reigning European champion,” he said. Cook and his brother (and coach) Luke staked everything they had on a legal battle. “We tried to challenge it: Every penny I had from those sponsors – that was meant to be our life’s savings! – went into overturning the decision,” he said. But advised that

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Athlete Rio 2016: Interviews Meet the Elite

Aaron Cook

‘When I was 5, the ‘Power Rangers’ were on TV...when I was 7, my parents took me to a taekwondo school and it was love at first sight’

they had only a 50-50 chance of winning, the brothers decided to pull back from the brink and not mortgage their house. “It was a very, very hard period,” Cook said. An early option was provided by the Isle of Man, which invited Cook to fight for the island in European and World Championships. He did that, but to realize his Olympic dreams, Cook needed another flag to fight under. That flag would belong to a small state in Eastern Europe looking to upgrade its taekwondo game: The Republic of Moldova. Cook was put in touch with Moldovan taekwondo authorities during the European Championships in Baku in 2014. Soon, the brothers were introduced to the ambitious and dynamic president of the Moldovan Taekwondo Federation, Igor Iuzefovici. “We met in London and discussed the possibilities and kind of left them to it, and behind the scenes they were trying to make it possible,” he said. “It all kind of happened overnight, and just before the World Championships in May, we got the green light!”

‘I like it when we look into each other’s eyes and go hell for leather – ‘Rocky’ style!’

Today, Cook armed with dual nationality, is delighted at the prospects his adopted home offers him.

‘I like to have a scrap, it to be a proper fight, not too tactical’

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“I am completely free to do whatever I want, I can have my brother as a coach and they take care of all expenses, so I don’t have to worry about mum and dad paying for anything,” he said. “We are in a better place than we ever have been, things are looking up and we look forward to the future and hopefully winning the first ever gold for Moldova at the Olympics.” The two now spend as much time as possible in their adopted home country, although

MOLDOVA

Cook also benefits from training in the U.K. under ex-Manchester United Conditioning Coach Mick Clegg – whose former clients include a certain David Beckham. And on his visits to the U.K., he also gets to spend time with his long-term girlfriend – Team GB’s Bianca Walkden, the current world champion.

the most crowd-pleasing in taekwondo’s ar-

Meanwhile, Moldova, a late-comer to tae-

tion of taekwondo from before the PSS (pro-

senal. He is a prolific firer of running serial turning kicks, spinning heel kicks, spinning back kicks and jump spinning round kicks. “I always liked the spin, and to the face it is worth four points, so it is worth the extra risk,” he said. “I come from the older generatector

and

scoring

system), when it was more old-school power, speed and double spins.” However, since London 2012, the employment of PSS has pushed the sport toward a cagier, more tactical,

front-leg

game. “At the moment, it is more about height

advantage

and reach and flex,” he said. “I have had to adjust my game dramatically

over

the last three years; I keep elements of my kwondo, has not just secured the services of one of the sport’s star athletes. In a bid to become a training hub for the sport in Eastern Europe, it has pledged to open a WTF-designated regional taekwondo training center. And to incubate a strong pipeline of talent, the country has announced that it will start offering taekwondo classes in elementary schools nationwide. But will Cook, with his high-altitude, highrisk style, be able to quench Moldova’s Olympic thirst in 2016? That is a question much discussed by the taekwondo punditry. His spectacular, jump-spinning kick KO of Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly in the Moscow GP earned him the 2015 Best Kick of the Year award, and Cook’s trademark techniques are

old style, but it does not always work on the electronics.” So Cook knows what he has to do – but he also knows his own game. “I like to have a scrap, I like it to be a proper fight, not too tactical,” he said. “I like it when we look into each other’s eyes and go hell for leather – ‘Rocky’ style!” Just as the power rangers always defeat the aliens and monsters, it seems certain that Cook will continue to win the applause of the crowds and the admiration of his peers. What is less certain, however, is whether Cook’s spectacular style is what is needed when it comes to winning Olympic medals. For the answer to this conundrum – well. Tune into Rio 2016.

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

BELGIUM

Jaouad Achab

His Mother’s

DREAM Fulfilled

Taekwondo inspired the international odyssey of the Achab family. Final destination? Rio ...

J

amilla Chellat must be a proud woman. As a youngster in Morocco, she had seen taekwondo being practiced, but had been too poor to take it up herself. Embittered, she vowed that, after she married, her children would be given the opportunity that she had never had: to excel in the sport.

By the age of 6, Achab was fighting in and winning competitions – first for his club, and then for his city on the Moroccan national circuit. At the age of 13, he won the national cadet championship. However, for what he calls “political reasons” of the local federation, he did not make it onto the national squad.

Fast forward over two decades and two continents and so it has proven- and then some.

In 2009, Achab’s family decided to emigrate to Belgium for a better future for them all – and for more taekwondo opportunities for their wunderkind son. He started fighting immediately upon arrival on both the Belgian and European circuits. “I had some wins, some losses, as I had not had any international experience,“ he recalls. “But little by little, I understood international-level competition.”

Her son, Jaouad Achab, is now the worldranked number one in the ultra-competitive men’s -68kg category and one of the favorites to grab Olympic gold for his adopted nation of Belgium in Rio in 2016. The junior Achab’s taekwondo journey started at the tender - very tender – age of 3. As per her earlier vow, his mother had put his older brother and sister into taekwondo classes. When they came home, their tiny brother would insist on kicking and sparring with them. Seeing his unusual attachment to the sport, his mother took him along to the club. The coach said he was too little to begin, but his mother pleaded with him to let this child with the “unnatural talent” give it a go. The coach finally relented, but said it would be for just one session. That session dragged into two, then three. “People saw something special in me,” Achab said, looking back.

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In 2011, he won the Belgium Open, his “first big competition” in Europe. Spotting the immigrant’s talent, in 2012, the Flemish Taekwondo Federation asked him to travel from his home in Brussels and train in Antwerp twice a week as a sparring partner for their top players. “I knew that it was a very good team, with a very good trainer, Karim Dighou, and a very good performance director, Laurence Rase,” he said. “For them, I was a sparring partner so I accepted their offer in order to better myself, but I wanted to be a champion.”

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Jaouad Achab Before long, he was travelling to Antwerp - at the Flemish Federation’s expense - on most days and started winning G1 and G2 tournaments. But lacking Belgian nationality, he could not fight in the Europeans or in the Worlds. That changed in 2013. “I became Belgian that year,” he said. “It was an amazing day: I was crying and everything. It was a big door for a better future.”

putting the foot down.”

Earlier in 2015, however - prior to Achab’s

Like many of the most crowd-pleasing fighters in taekwondo – Servet Tazegul, Aaron Cook, Levent Tuncat – he is critical of the current state of the game, which strongly favors the front-leg pushing kick.

victories at the Worlds and at the Universi-

“I like Daedo, but there is something they must change because at the moment people

The result was a world championship title. “It was the most important competition of my life and the biggest day of my life,” he said, classing that – along with the European Championships and the World Universiade, which he also won in 2015 – as his top competitive achievements. As a fighter, Achab blends old school with new school taekwondo. “I do the push kick at the moment I need it. I had old style, but I make it good with the Daedo style,” he said. “But I like spinning kicks, the head kicks and the leg control: I have good control of the legs so I can kick again and again without

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ade - things had been different. “Early this year, I had a lot of pressure, I was not in the top six, I asked myself, ‘How can I do this? To be in the top six?’” he recalled. “When I slept I was dreaming of competitions - I had to talk to a psychologist.” A student of physiotherapy, he is cut-

He fought in the 2013 World Championships, winning two matches. In 2014, he became European champion. “That was my first dream to achieve,” he said. “After that another door opened: After the Europeans, I became a professional athlete with BLOSO, the Flemish governmental sport organization, which supported me a lot. From then on, I have got a lot of results.” At the 2015 World Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia, he found himself facing off against Mexico’s Joel Gonzalez, a two-time world champ, in the finals. “I had to have full concentration; if I’d lost it for one second he could go very fast to my head,” Achab recalls. “I controlled the fight for the first round, and the second round, I worked harder and it was 2-0 to me, then in the third he went to the head but at that moment I seized the advantage and scored to his head! It was 5-2 and I had to control the fight to the end every second was important. I controlled it to the finish.”

‘Physically, people say I am small for the -68kg category, but mentally, my mum says I have the heart and mind of a heavyweight’

BELGIUM

ting back on his classes in order to concentrate on the Olympics, but will return to full-time study after the Rio smoke has cleared. Though 2016 will certainly not be the end of his competitive career; Achab plans on competing in Tokyo 2020. Outside the dojang, he likes to swim, play snooker and shop for clothes. He also reads a lot; the book he is currently working through is on achieving one’s goals and appreciating whatever one has. Looking beyond his competitive career, he expects to be a physiotherapist and coach taekwondo.

‘I like spinning kicks, the head kicks and the leg control: I have good control of the legs so I can kick again and again without putting the foot down’

Although firmly in the Belgian camp following his award of citizenship, he is gratified when he hears that many sports fans in Morocco are wondering do not watch a lot of taekwondo, the style now is not very spectacular,” he said. “You have sensors on the bottom of the foot and when you push you get points, so people don’t stop pushing, pushing, pushing. Taekwondo is much more beautiful than pushing.”

why he did not make the Moroccan national squad years previously, and are now

‘I had a lot of pressure. When I slept I was dreaming of competitions - I had to talk to a psychologist’

urging his return. Having made a personal and family odyssey from Morocco to Belgium in order to achieve success in taekwondo; having learned three new languages – French, Dutch and English

To overcome this, he suggests removing the sensor from the sole of the foot-sock, and toning down the power required to score points on the PSS. “Then, you would see beautiful kicks - people would kick with more spinning and double kicks,” he said.

– in the process; Achab now looks set to

With Rio 2016 fast approaching, Achab is in a good space. “Mathematically, I am qualified for the Olympics,” he said. “In all the GPs I will fight as normal and do my best to take gold – without pressure.”

“I am someone who always thinks posi-

scale the pinnacle of the sport. His mother’s ambition was one contributing factor in his success. His “unnatural” precocious talent was another. To what other factors does this young man attribute his success so far? tively,” he said. “Physically, people say I am small for the -68kg category, but mentally, my mum says I have the heart and mind of a heavyweight.”

‘There is something they must change because at the moment people do not watch a lot of taekwondo, the style now is not very spectacular’ Part 2 | Road to Rio

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WTF / IOC

‘I work in a post office, I run from house to house delivering letters - but today I was delivered an Olympic ticket!’

Raheleh Asemani

Making History: ‘If this was a Movie, Nobody would Believe It!’ Raheleh Asemani is an athlete without borders: An Iranian-born refugee, she has been fighting under the wing of Team Belgium. Now, she is the first refugee athlete ever to quality for Olympic taekwondo

‘Rio is a dream for me. Hope carried me to the Olympics, now I will give all I have to win’

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eing the best of the best is a daunting proposition - and for taekwondo’s elite, the road to Rio 2016 has been paved with tears.

Endless hours of tactical training; endless hours of physical conditioning. The drudgery of nutritional plans; the pain of injury management. Long, long flights to places as far apart as Mexico and Moscow. Preevent analyses of opponents; pre-fight tactical planning. The all-too-short battles on the mats; the agony of defeat; the ecstasy of victory. But one athlete who has fought through to Rio has walked an even rougher road than most – for Iranian-born refugee Raheleh Asemani does not have a nation to fight for nor a flag to fight under. Fortunately, however, she has found a national team to support her Olympic odyssey. Born in Karak, Iran, in 1989, the young Asemani first wanted to do gymnastics, but, on her father’s advice, took up taekwondo. That was in 2000. Tall, lithe and with a whiplike round kick off both her front and back legs, her promise in the sport soon became obvious: By 2009, she was a professional on the highly competitive Iranian circuit. However, there were issues. “I was always number one in Iran, but my opportunities were limited,” she told website “Fans of Flanders” in a 2015 interview. In 2012, she became a refugee for reasons she does not wish to disclose and arrived in Belgium. As a former Iranian top gun - she had been an Asian Games silver medalist for Iran in 2010 – and a new resident of the Europe-

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Raheleh Asemani

an nation, she found a warm welcome with Team Belgium. “I train every day in Belgium,” she said. “My coaches are Karim (Dighou) and Laurence (Rase) and I have very good relations with them - they know me very well.” In the European nation, she found a job as a postwoman and mastered the language. But she kept on kicking, fighting in an array of tourneys around the continent. Facing political, nationality and financial problems, life was a struggle but in the 2015 taekwondo season, her form peaked. She won bronze in the -57kg class in the Spanish Open, and golds in the same division in the Austrian, Croatian, Polish and Serbian Opens. Yet despite these successes, her Belgian citizenship application had still not been cleared. That meant that, as a non-European, she would be unable to compete in the European Olympic qualification tournament in Istanbul. “It has been such a hard journey, I was lost,” she said. “Many times in my head I thought it would not happen because of politics, visa problems, lack of money, and I couldn’t travel to [many] ranking events.” Fortunately, help was at hand. With the IOC calling on its member International Federations to grant refugee athletes a chance, the WTF asked its Council members to vote on necessary changes to their Olympic Standing Procedures to permit this. The Council members did so – and their decision was unanimous. Asemani was in. In Istanbul, fighting under the WTF flag, she rose to the occasion. In the finals of the female -57kg category, she faced Finland’s Suvi Mikkonen. It would be a battle of contrasting styles: The shorter, more aggressive Finn firing off a full arsenal of techniques, against the leggier more tactical refugee plying a world-class front-leg. The first round kicked off with both girls foot sparring; the Finnish girl looking more

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WTF / IOC

aggressive against Asemani’s height advantage. Mikkonen racked up the points, establishing a 3-1 lead; only in the final seconds of the round did Asemani start returning the pressure, manouvering her opponent to the edge of the mats. In the second, Asemani started more actively – only to go down after sustaining a blow to her key weapon, her front, right leg. She rose gamely - but suffered another shot to the same area. After a brief pause, she continued; her conditioning paid off as she started using the battered leg to hunt the Finn’s head. But she could not connect and visited the mats yet again after a body clash. Fighting resumed. Now, having been down three times in the round, and behind on the scoreboard, she showed the heart of a champion. Raising her leg to high chamber, she caught Mikkonen in the jaw with a round kick for three points, bringing the board up to 3-4 in her favor. The final seconds of Round 2 were action packed, as Mikkonen wielded ax and back kicks against Asemani’s turning kicks. The round ended 3-4.

In the final round the action was more intense, both girls showing a high work rate, but it was Asemani whose range-finder was on target: as Mikkonen fought forward, Asemani seized the moment and planted

ended 7-3 to Asemani. Both girls won places to Rio – but it was Asemani, who, having proven her caliber by taking the top slot, looked both delighted and relieved.

tinued. “It is amazing that I have this opportunity as a refugee in Belgium, and I am so pleased that the IOC is bringing hope and fairness in this way.”

“I work in a post office, I run from house

Although Asemani had fought under the WTF, rather than the Belgian flag, Team Belgium was equally upbeat. “If this was a movie, nobody would believe it was possible … it’s an incredible moment for all of us!” said Performance Director Rase. “Rio will showcase that taekwondo cares and that Belgium is ready.”

– “I’m a post women and after the Olympics I want to continue my job because I want to construct my life” – and her pre-Olympic workup with Dighou, Rase and Team Belgium after working hours. She remains in close contact with her family in Iran, speaking to her father every day. It is her family, rather than her nationality, that has kept her going, she told “Fans of Flanders:” “When I do taekwondo, I do it for my dad and my family.” She also has a boyfriend of four years and there may be a future there: “He helps me for a good victory in Rio,” she said. ”Maybe after Rio we can have a plan.” But for now, Asemani’s hopes are no different to those of every other elite fighter. “Rio is a dream for me,” she said. “Hope has carried me to the Olympics, now I will give all I have to win.”

“I am living a dream now!” said Coach Dighou – who had already defied Belgium’s small size by qualifying two athletes for Rio via the elite Grand Prix circuit. “It is so special, our Belgian team is a family - we care about each other and we support each other - and Rio is going to be special for us. What a movement!”

her side kick in Mikkonen’s chin. It was the decisive strike. Though Mikkonen remained game until the dying seconds, the fight

to house delivering letters - but today I was delivered an Olympic ticket,” she said. “I am going to Rio!” “I want to thank the WTF and especially [WTF President] Dr. Choue for his humanitarian efforts,” Asemani con-

The next months are going to be busy ones for the refugee Olympian. Asemani, who will participate in the Rio 2016 as a member of the Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA), plans to continue her job in the postal service during the day

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RUSSIA

Anastasia Baryshnikova

The Grace of a Baryshnikov, the Power of a Kalashnikov Taekwondo princess hails from Russia’s arsenal of tanks and taekwondo fighters

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ith her long blond hair and Slavic good looks, Anastasia Baryshnikova of Russia could pass for a champion figure skater or maybe a Romanov princess. But the 24-year-old hails from Chelyabinsk, the city in the very heart of Russia that was the arsenal for the Soviet Union’s World War II tank fleet - and is known across the WTF as the setting for the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships and as an arsenal churning out some of Russia’s top taekwondo fighters. It was in Chelyabinsk that the tiny Anastasia started the sport. “I had an elder brother and my mother decided to put us in it together,” she said. “It was an interesting sport with a lot of kicks and a tactical game.” Her brother did not persist; she did.

Now one of the most recognizable faces on Team Russia, the world-ranked number five is a definite medal possibility for Rio 2016. Though she went out in her first fight in the 2015 Manchester Grand Prix Series 3 on Oct. 16, 2015 against Cote d’Ivoire’s Ruth Gbagbi, she had seized gold at the Samsun Grand Prix Series 2 with a convincing tactical victory in the finals against China’s Hua Zhang. The Russian took an early one-point lead then added another as she found her distance, taking the first round 2-0. Round two started faster with the Russian girl picking off her opponent with two more fast points, varying her front-leg attacks with a rear-leg round kick. Zhang managed to claw back two points, but the round ended 5-2 to Baryshnikova. The third started with both girls wielding their front legs; the Chinese girl scored again, with a round kick fired from the clinch. With

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Zhang on the attack, Baryshnikova displayed some lively circular footwork to keep out of firing range. At the end Zhang was firing every weapon, but Baryshnikova’s work rate early in the match, combined with her cagey defensiveness, allowed her to walk away with a 5-3 victory. “I am very glad, as I needed these points,” she said. “And of course the whole team was glad - we can only win all together.” Prior to Samsun, her top competitive achievements include Olympic bronze in London, 2012, three golds at the European Championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and gold at the European Games in 2015. What she did not win was gold on home turf at the Chelyabinsk World Championships. “I would not say it was terrible but it was not too good,” she recalled. “It was pressure.”

As a player, she sees her own strengths as footwork and movement; her favored weapon is that point-scoring, crowd-pleasing favorite, the ax kick. Of her strengths, she says, “I listen to my coach, and he sets the goals.” And her weaknesses? “I won’t talk about my weaknesses!” Among her competitors, she is a fan of Team Korea’s Hye-ri Oh. “I like how the Asians – especially the Koreans – operate,” she said. “She moves quickly, feels out the distance and has a lot of head kicks.” Baryshnikova professes herself happy with current ruleset and with the PSS but finds her size, 3, a problem: “It is a bit too big for me.” While some female players are unhappy that the protective gear hides their faces, hair and figures, she is not: “For me the main thing is safety and I don’t want injuries, so it does not matter how I look,” she said.“I will show myself off in the stands!”

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Anastasia Baryshnikova

Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

RUSSIA

‘I believe in God and I know he will help me be the winner in the Rio’

‘For me the main thing is safety and I don’t want injuries, so it does not matter how I look. I will show myself off in the stands!’

‘I see the future positively; I regret nothing’

Outside the ring, she enjoys socializing, picnics and cinema. She is also in a relationship: “I have a boyfriend and we have been dating for a long time - seven years.” While she is not married to taekwondo, her boyfriend is both a Chelyabinsk native and – perhaps inevitably – a taekwondo coach. “He always supports me, he is my greatest fan.” In the future, one of her greatest wishes is, “… a big family with lots of children.” Her other great wish is for Olympic gold hence her focus now is set. Her time leading up to August 2016 will be divided between training sessions with Team Russia and her

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personal training with her personal coach. Then it will be Rio de Janeiro and the ultimate destination: the Olympic field of play. “I believe in God and I know he will help me be the winner in the Rio and this is very important to me, because when I went to London, I wanted to be the winner,” she said. “As I did not do so, I have a great desire to do it in Rio - to win!” And beyond 2016? “My biggest joy in life is that God gave me life, family and relationships and friends,” she said. “I see the future positively; I regret nothing.”

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Cote d’Ivoire

Cheick Sallah Cisse

‘MAN WITH NO FEAR’ Cheik Sallah Cisse is Africa’s most fearless taekwondo fighter - and one of its most entertaining

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t promised to be an epic clash – perhaps the best match-up of the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Mexico City, Mexico on December 5-6.

In the men’s -80kg category, Cote d’Ivoire’s Cheick Sallah Cisse is one of the most consistent fighters in the sport and the pride of African taekwondo. Moldova’s Aaron Cook is perhaps the sport’s most crowd-pleasing player, noted for his all-out attacks and his use of spectacular kicks.

ting his arm around his shoulders in an effort to console him. It was a powerful moment: The brotherhood of athletes.

undone by the altitude, having had just three days of training. “I had not expected it,” he admitted. “It affected me a lot.”

Cook went on to win silver at the championship; his team admitted that their entire strategy for the competition had been based upon defeating Cisse.

Born in the town of Bouake, but now resident in Cote d’Ivoire’s former capital Abidjan, Cisse, 22, started martial arts with karate at the age of 5. When he moved to the capital at age 8, he switched styles to taekwondo. The rest is history.

Cisse, despite having been eliminated in his

He lists his three major competitive achievements as a gold medal at the Moscow Grand Prix Series 1, gold at the Brazzaville African Games 2015, and silver at the 2015 World Universiade in Gwangju, Korea. A consistent fighter, he has also medaled at the Samsun, Turkey and Manchester, UK Grand Prix events.

The two had done battle four times previously. Each had walked away with two victories. In Mexico City, at the season’s grand finale, the crowd anticipated an epic battle. Would it be delivered? Cook is a 100-percent offensive fighter – so from the opening bell, Cisse preempted his opponent by charging forward into an attack of his own. Many taekwondo matches are tactical, stand-off contests with athletes foot-fencing at distance, with the result being decided by one or two points. This was the opposite. The crowd gaped, open-mouthed: The two athletes were defying the city’s notorious, energy-sapping altitude. All-out combat raged, as the fighters met head-to-head, bringing to bear every weapon in the taekwondo arsenal. It ended 16-10 to the Moldovan. The agony of defeat was evident as Cisse, exhausted and devastated, dropped face down onto the mats. Cook dropped down beside him, put-

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Asked to list his key strengths he puts spirit at top. “I am not afraid of anyone,” he said. As regards physical attributes, he said, “I have the prototypical physique of the new style: good flexibility and good height.” opening match, earned a place for his NOC to Rio on ranking points. Later on the same day, he had recovered. Asked what it had felt like out there, he said simply, “I came for gold. I was disappointed.” In a fight post mortem, he admitted his offensive strategy had been undermined by Cook’s footwork. “I stated very strong but Aaron was cancelling me by moving around,” he said. “I should have changed my game.” On the conditioning front, he had also been

Cote d’Ivoire is one of Africa’s – and the world’s – strongest taekwondo nations. The country was, back in 1985, the number two nation for the sport after Korea, something Cisse’s coach, Attada Tadjou, attributes to Patrice Remark, the country’s former technical director and current U.S. coach. It was this competitive success that made the sport so popular. Yet despite the popularity of the sport in Cote d’Ivoire, Cisse admits that being a taekwondo athlete is a struggle.

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Cheick Sallah Cisse

‘I receive a lot of media attention as I am doing well, but though I get support to go to competitions, it is tough financially’

Cote d’Ivoire

‘I AM NOT AFRAID OF ANYONE’

“I receive a lot of media attention as I am doing well, but in terms of financial support, though I get support to go to competitions, it is tough financially.” He especially cites the support that Cote d’Ivoire Taekwondo Federation President Bamba Cheick Daniel has personally extended to him. And he hopes for better things in 2016. “Now that I am qualified for the Olympics, I expect to get more support.”

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the Congo, which ended on September 19, he jumped on a flight to Samsun, Turkey, to fight in the Grand Prix Series 2. He made it through to the final – also on September 19. There, he fought through to the finals, but after stalking on to the mats to face Iran’s Mahdi Khodabakhshi he declared – to the astonishment of the crowd – “No mas.”

An electrical engineering major, Cisse has currently suspended his studies to prepare for the Olympics. After Mexico City, his first step on the road to Rio is recuperation.

“What happened was, I was coming from the African Games. I travelled and just weighed in and fought,” he recalled. “I was too tired and I had too many bruises to fight Khodabakhshi. I was in the final – but I stopped.”

“I am going to rest as I had to give a lot of fights this year – too many,” he said. Indeed, many athletes comment on 2015’s grueling competitive schedule: After the May World Championships, the four-series Grand Prix took place in the year’s second half.

After resting following a torrid 2015, the next step for Cisse is analysis. “We are going to analyze everything that happened, then make assessments, then plan, then go back to do some fighting,’” said Cisse’s coach, Attada Tadjou.

Cisse faced a particularly diabolical schedule in September. After winning the African Games title in Brazzaville, the Republic of

Cisse himself said he has no concerns. “I am not worried, I have a chance,” he said. “When I came here, my strategy did not

work, but I have plenty of time to make some adjustments.” As far as Cisse’s own analysis goes, he is respectful about his potential competitors in Rio. “Aaron Cook’s game is different to other people’s, he uses a dynamic style, not just in profile with the front leg,” he said. “I like his game – he did not change. He is a good fighter.” Regarding Iran’s Mahdi Khodabakhshi he said, “He is very good: I have never fought him … (but) he is not dangerous to me.” As for Russia’s Albert Gaun, he said, “I beat him by 12 points in the Moscow Grand Prix, but he is good as well – he has his flavor.” And what of Cisse himself? “He loves training – anytime, anywhere – and he has a winning spirit,” said Tadjou. “Sometimes he wants to do his own thing, but is very coachable – he is a dream for a coach.” His student’s dream is simple: “Olympic gold.”

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Mexico MEXICO

Saul Gutierrez

Who

Loves to Fight

Team Mexico’s ‘longest’ fighter won an Olympic berth at the Grand Prix Final, but knows that he will have to fight again to go to Rio. Still: For a kid who loves scrapping, that is hardly a problem

E

very year, Mexicans celebrate their most famous festival, El Dia de los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”), which features revelers dancing through the streets made up or dressed as skeletons. On Team Mexico, there is one man who may not have to dress up as a skeleton - and who never has to worry about making the weight. “My nickname is ‘Espina’ (‘spine’),” said Saul Gutierrez with a laugh. “Because I am long, tall and skinny!” A native of Queretaro, the attractive central Mexican town that hosted 2014’s Grand Prix Final, Gutierrez took up taekwondo at age 10. “I always passed by a taekwondo school and I would stop by and watch the fights,” he recalled. “That is how I got into it.” And fighting was in the blood, for like many athletes drawn to contact sports, Gutierrez was, in his youth, a natural with his knuckles. “I love to fight, I have always been that way,” he said. “Not just in school, but also sometimes with my neighbors, I used to fight in the street.” This suggests that the sport-combat outlet that taekwondo offered may have saved him trouble in later life. Does he still fight? “Not now!” he said. “Just taekwondo. “ Aged 22, he cites his major competitive achievements as bronze at the World Championships and silver at the Samsun Grand Prix – then his chance for glory came in front of a hometown crowd in Mexico City at 2015’s Grand Prix Final. In the final of the male -68kg division – one of the sport’s most competitive categories - he faced off for gold against Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee. “The Spine” was taller, but it was Lee who piled the pressure on early, attacking forward with a stabbing side kick, varied with turning and oblique kicks. Lee went one up, then two up, then three points up with separate body kicks. Round 1 ended 3-0 to Lee; Gutierrez looked frustrated. In the second, the Mexican used his height and leg length to his advantage, con-

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

Saul Gutierrez

‘I love to fight, I used to fight in school and with my neighbors, I have always been that way - but not now! Just taekwondo’

necting with a head kick for three points, evening the score and delighting the crowd. With both fighters raising their work rate, the board rang up 4-4. A head kick appeal won Gutierrez a further three points, ending the second round ahead, 7-5. Round three started with a well-conditioned Lee looking dangerous as he tried to

MEXICO

good, I was doing the right things, but I got tired at the end,” “The Spine” said. He also praised Lee’s technical versatility. “He has many different components to his fights, he can do cut kicks, he can do spin kicks,” Gutierrez said. “He is a very good fighter, he has very good conditioning and a lot of strength.” The two competitors are

In the rough-and-tumble of full-contact taekwondo, “The Spine” has taken his share of knocks. Like many – perhaps most – athletes gearing up for the Olympic challenge, his biggest concern over the coming months is avoiding damage. “I do worry about injuries,” he admitted. “I have fractured my hand many times: the right-hand knuckles twice, the little finger once, the wrist once.”

‘My nickname is ‘Espina’ (‘spine’), because I am long, tall and skinny!’

Outside the dojang, Gutierrez is a student, studying business administration, as well as a soldier (rank: private) on the Mexican government’s sport sponsorship program. How about the ladies? “There are many girls!” he laughs. “Actually, only one,” he adds quickly. “And she is a keeper.”

‘I don’t like poomsae, only the fighting!’

force the Mexican off the mats. Gutierrez was dropped to the deck and Lee closed the gap to a one-point difference - then scored again, evening the board to 7-7 at the end of the third. That took things to golden point but it was Lee who looked fresher as the two came out. The Korean connected with a body kick, earning golden point and gold medal. He was rueful about his loss to Lee – one of the most consistent fighters in the sport as well as one of the most popular, having twice been voted the WTF’s “Man of the Year” by his peers. “Against Dae-hoon I felt

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Although his performance at the Worlds and the Grand Prix won the Mexican NOC a Rio berth, “The Spine” knows he is not automatically qualified for Rio: Given taekwondo’s popularity in Mexico, the national team selectors have a deep talent pool to draw from. “I am going to rest for the rest of December, then get ready for the Olympic trials in Mexico and focus specifically on each opponent,” he said. “We have many top players in the top 10 and top 20 rankings, so we will all have to fight.”

rivals only on the mats. “Sometimes, when we got to Korea, we say ‘Hi!’” said Gutierrez. “But only a little bit, because of the language.” As a head-hunter himself, Gutierrez is a crowd-pleasing fighter. “My favorite techniques are face kicks,” he said. “I like spinning kicks but I don’t do them; for my height, they are difficult to do, I am a little bit slow.” He cites his height and flexibility as his best physical attributes; when it comes to mental game, he says he is patient and cool under fire.

His ambitions are similar to those of many athletes on these pages. “I want to go to the Olympics and win a medal, and if I win a medal I am out!” he said. “I want to finish university and become a politician; I want to bring sport higher up in the state of Queretaro - that is both a dream and an ambition.” But regardless of Olympic glory, the onetime scrappy kid will probably continue to enjoy taekwondo. “I like that it is a martial art, so all the athletes are focused and respectful and disciplined,” Gutierrez said. “I like everything about it.” He pauses, then adds: “I don’t like poomsae, though – only the fighting!”

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BELGIUM

Si Mohamed Ketbi

Belgian boy is one of the youngest members of taekwondo’s global elite

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i Mohamed Ketbi – “Simo” to his friends – may still be a schoolboy, but he did a man’s job at the 2015 World Taekwondo Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Having battled through the preliminaries in the male -58kg division, his semifinal fight went according to plan. Facing off against China’s Shuai Zhao – one of the lankiest fighters in the division, with the stature of a basketball player – action started off at a fast pace. The towering Zhao drew first blood, but the boy from Brussels settled down and started to dominate from the center of the ring, using active footwork and racking up points with lead-leg kicks. Round three started with multiple kicks from both fighters, but Ketbi stayed ahead, and after pulling a head shot out of the bag in the closing seconds, ended the match comfortably ahead at 14-7. “He was not as motivated as I am, I took it with the head shot,” Ketbi said. “Me and him were both tired, but I could win.” That tactical victory earned Ketbi a place in the finals – and a trial-by-fire, for Ketbi’s opponent was perhaps the dominant athlete fighting in taekwondo today: The Iranian “Tsunami” Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah.

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Si Mohamed Ketbi

‘I am not happy with that in Belgium, taekwondo is not so popular, it has to be more like football. For now, there is no commercial sponsorship’

‘I like to fight with him. It is very fair play, he is a good person.’

‘Every person can be beaten, they are humans with two arms and two legs’

The Iranian had undergone a punishing fight in the semis against Russia’s Ruslan Poiseev, but by the time he came out to face Ketbi, he had recovered his composure. In fact, there was no sign of nerves from either player: As the two finalists waited in the holding area, both flashed big smiles at the cameras. Then orchestral music played; the athletes entered the ring - and battle commenced. Both fighters have similar physiques, and showcased similar styles: Most play was off the front leg, aimed at the chest protector. Ketbi raised the pace, but it was Ashourzadeh Fallah who landed first. Action extended to more ambidextrous kicking from both players, before the round finished 3-0 to the Iranian. Round 2 continued in a similar fashion, with Ketbi firing off punches which failed to score; at the end of the round, he was 5-1 down. In Round 3, “The Tsunami” was holding center court with the score at 7-2. With 30 seconds left on the clock, Ketbi went over to the offensive but his tactics were too conservative to rack up the necessary points. In the last second of the match, he unleashed a head kick - but too late. Final score: 8-3 to the Iranian. “It was the third time I have fought him, I thought I could beat him but he got the advantage at the beginning,” said Ketbi. “In the third round I could see his opening, but there was no more time.” He added, “I think I lost the fight because of concentration; also my legs were very tired.” Even so, Coach Leonardo Gambluch was de-

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BELGIUM

lighted with his student’s performance. “I am more than satisfied!” he said. “We are disappointed he did not get the gold, but his career will be long.”

taekwondo in his country. “I am not happy with that in Belgium, it is not so popular, it has to be more like football,” he said. “For now, there is no commercial sponsorship.”

Indeed, “Simo” still has a year of high school ahead of him before he graduates. Then it will be university, where he hopes to study engineering. No girlfriend yet? “No, I have to concentrate on what I am doing,” he said.

Currently, he receives support from Adeps, the Francophone sport association, and Be Gold, the Belgian Olympic sport organization; he also has access to the Physical Training University in Brussels.

Ketbi expects some media coverage and “a

The WTF’s 9th ranked player, Ketbi was the first place winner at the 2015 Swiss Open in Montreux, Switzerland and came in second at the 2015 Lotto Dutch Open Taekwondo Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. His aims are set high: He hopes to be European, World and Olympic champion. Is this feasible? His coach reckons so. “He is young, and his future will be better,” Gambluch said. “His career is long: It will be an adventure!”

lot of Facebook hits” when he returns home: His silver is the highest medal Belgium has yet won at a world taekwondo championships. However, due to a political issue within the Belgian taekwondo organization, Ketbi fought under the WTF flag. His family were delighted when he called and told them of his achievement in Chelyabinsk. “They were very, very happy - they were crazy! - they did not know I would get a silver,” he said. “I want to say thanks to God, then my father, my family and my coaches and my friends.” However, like many Western European athletes, he is dissatisfied with the profile of

But there is one obstacle standing in the way: A certain Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah. Off the mats, the two competitors get along. “I like to fight with him,” Ketbi said. “It is very fair play, he is a good person.” But can “The Tsunami” be defeated? “Every person can be beaten, they are humans with two arms and two legs,” Ketbi said. “It is possible to beat him and I hope to train to beat him one time.” Given their ages, the Iranian and the Belgian will be clashing on the taekwondo circuit for a very long time to come. How long? Ketbi thinks for a moment, then replies. “Until we die!” he said.

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IRAN

Mahdi Khodabakhshi

‘I needed very single point I could get, it was one of the best fights ever’

‘God-Given Talent’ Aims to be ‘New Man’ in Rio

In 2015, the Iranian superstar combined athleticism, technique and style to dominate his weight class

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sk any taekwondo pundit what the most dominant fighting machine in the sport is at present, and chances are good that the answer will be two words: “Mahdi Khodabakhshi.”

but my father forced me to do it,” he said. “My whole family practice; my sister is an instructor; my uncles are instructors.”

Although he was sidelined by injury and did not make the Mexico City Grand Prix Final, the Iranian has won his NOC a spot in Rio 2016 with flying colors. He is the number-one ranked player in the men’s -80kg division – arguably, the fiercest competitive category in the game; he is the current world champion; the 2014 Asian Games champion; and holds three Grand Prix gold medals.

The match which planted him firmly on the map was his battle against Aaron Cook in the Manchester Grand Prix Final in 2013. At the time Cook, then fighting for the Isle of Man, was both the number one in the category and a massive and perennial crowd favorite. “It was very interesting, my first time to fight Aaron,” Khodabakhshi recalled. “The whole audience was behind Aaron, and that made me even more motivated to win.”

His nickname is “The Terminator” but his surname may be even more appropriate to his phenomenal talent: in Farsi, “Khodabakhshi” means “God Given.” If that talent was granted by God, it was incubated by his father. The 24-year-old started taekwondo under the tutelage of Khodabakhshi Sr. at the age of 4 – or, as he puts it himself, “since I grew arms and legs!” It was no easy regimen: “I did not like taekwondo,

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best fights ever.” The final score: 13-11 to the Iranian. If there is a perfect physique for taekwondo, Khodabakhshi owns it. He is tall, lean and long-limbed.

Now a 4th dan, he is a staple on the formidable Iranian men’s team and may well be its most valuable property.

The Iranian picked off points for an early lead. Cook, however, never says die, and in the third round he surged out like a typhoon, lunging across the mats in a barrage of noholds-barred assaults, launching combination round kicks and spin kicks. The Iranian kept his cool and fought to keep Cook at distance. “I needed very single point I could get,” Khodabakhshi said. “It was one of the

‘My movement is not intentional – when I watch myself I think, ‘What the hell was I doing?’ I have no idea!’

Although he possesses a weapons-grade front leg, his favorite technique is the jump spinning round kick, unleashed against either body or face. Fighting from a wide, side-on stance, using his hands to feint and employing a dance-like torso movement, he looks confident, dangerous and stylish. Naturally, he is a crowd pleaser. “I want my audience to enjoy my games,” he said, “But my movement is not intentional – when I watch myself I think, ‘What the hell was I doing?’ I have no idea!” He credits rigorous training for the development of his killer front leg: “I believe my legs and my backside are my strengths,” he said. “Because of the new system, we have to work hard on front-leg kicks, and that has made my legs very strong.” The modern game, however, requires more than just physical attributes. “I am very ana-

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Iran’s Mahdi Khodabakhshi

IRAN

‘I plan to get a gold in the Olympics – I will deliver my best-ever performance!’ lytical,” he said. “Every person I am going to fight, I analyze.” But nobody is indestructible – a lesson Khodabakhshi learned in October. A firm favorite for gold at the 2015 Manchester Grand Prix Series 3, he went onto the mats against Team GB’s Lutalo Muhammad in the quarterfinals. The audience, excited to see “The Terminator” take on the home-town boy, went quiet after Khodabakhshi lurched. Clearly, something bad had happened. The Iranian struggled – against obvious agony – to continue, before the fight was halted: He had suffered a severe ankle sprain.

‘I believe that I am being watched and analyzed by other players, and I don’t want them to read my hand’

Recovery has been slow. In order to make the weight for the GP Series 2 in Samsun, Turkey and Series 3 in Manchester, UK, “I had got weaker and lowered my immune system,” Khodabakhshi said. All this explains his very conspicuous absence from the Grand Prix Final in Mexico City on Dec. 5-6, 2015. However, he expects to be back to full fighting fitness in the near future. His success on the mats in the 2014 and 2015 seasons – not to mention his reputation as the man to beat – indicate that his conditioning, technique, tactics and training are bestof-breed. But in the months leading up to the Rio Olympics, he plans to radically overhaul his game. “I believe that I am being watched and analyzed by other players, and I don’t want them to read my hand,” he said. “I am going to show you a different Mahdi there.” The lithe moves and athletic physique that make him so dangerous on the fighting circuit, combined with his good looks, also make him dangerous with the ladies. Asked if

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he has a girl friend he joked, “About a thousand!” Then he quickly corrected himself. “I don’t break hearts!” he insisted. “If anyone likes me – send me a message!” When not engaged in the grueling training program of the Iranian taekwondo athletes, he enjoys volleyball and travel. Taekwondo has provided a passport to the world; Spain has been his favorite destination thus far. He also likes cars. He drives a Hyundai, but hopes to own a Maserati. Is that feasible on his current salary as an athlete? “No!” he says – but it may be, “… in a few years, when I have managed to make money out of my titles.” As a child, he hated taekwondo. Now as a man, he finds it compelling. “Although I was forced to start taekwondo from a young age, as I got older, I learned more about the art,” he said. “The more it became a profession for me, the more I found it interesting.” Even so, “The Terminator” may hang up his dobok after the 2016 Games. “I plan to get a gold in the Olympics – I will deliver my best-ever performance! – and then I am not sure if I want to carry on,” he said. “I am under a lot of pressure and stress which affects my personal life. I want to have some sort of calm.” After what happened in Manchester, there will be no more pressure from his taekwondo-centric family. “My family is very proud and happy as I am successful, but they care about my well-being more than my achievements in taekwondo,” he said. “Since I got injured, they have given up on forcing me to do taekwondo after Rio.”

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SERBIA

Milica Mandic

Popular Olympian

Beats Injury, Recovers Form One of the circuit’s best-liked characters seeks second Olympic gold ...

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ow popular is Milica Mandic?

Put it this way: In the semifinals of the Manchester Grand Prix, as she faced off against Team GB’s Bianca “Queen Bee” Walkden, two of the Britons at ringside were rooting not for the hugely popular hometown girl, but for the Serbian. Mandic narrowly lost that battle on golden point, going home with bronze but even that result was a relief, because the 2012 Olympic gold medalist was plagued by one injury after another in 2015. Now she looks to be breaking out of the slump. “It was really important to win a medal in Manchester because when you calculate [ranking] points, there was only a 30-point

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difference between me and the number six,” she said in reference to the fact that only the top six athletes in each weight category are guaranteed Olympic spots. “So it was important for my ranking and for my confidence.” Mandic won medals at 2015’s U.S., Swiss and Dutch opens, but did not place at the Worlds or the early Grand Prix events. The fighting season saw her hammered by a string of injuries. She broke both her hands, and suffered a ruptured stomach muscle just before the World Championships in Chelyabinsk. At the GP Series 3 in Manchester, she had no issues with the very noisy local crowd. “I like to come here, the crowd are very noisy but very nice – I could hear my coach, so I did not have a problem with that.” She was also happy with the result. “Fighting Bianca,

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Milica Mandic

‘I want to compete more after Rio; I will only be 24, and when you see Gwladys Epangue and Brigitte Yague, they are in their 30s. That is amazing for me’

SERBIA

‘My coach says I am like a soldier: I listen to what he says, and I am very persistent’

I was ahead, but she won in golden point,” she said. “She is the world champion, so it was good for me before the Grand Prix Final and before Rio. After this Grand Prix I feel good, I feel sharp. “ The 23-year-old, named Milica but nicknamed “Comi,” started taekwondo as a schoolgirl. “I saw a poster in my junior school and went to see some fighting and a demonstration,” she recalls. “It was amazing! They were not the Kukkiwon demo team, but they were good.” That was in 2002; she entered her first competition in November the same year. Ten years after that debut, she was fighting in the most prestigious, highest pressure venue on earth: the Olympic finals. When the

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battle ended in London 2012, she had gold hanging round her neck. It was an outcome that changed her life and rocketed the sport’s profile in Serbia. “Nobody knew taekwondo in Serbia, now everyone knows me, my club and my sport, and they follow all the athletes,” she said. “In 2012, when I fought in the Olympics, everybody in Serbia was on Google, looking up taekwondo and searching for the rules!” Mandic is not just one of the great ambassadors for the sport, she is also one of its most popular figures. Given her picture-perfect features, sunny smile and even sunnier personality, she has – no surprise - a steady boyfriend back home in Belgrade. That fact may not put off boys

with amorous ambitions. In Manchester, she was surprised to hear a rumor that one of the elite Iranian fighters has fallen madly in love with her, but laughed it off. Her hobbies include bowling, cinema and reading, though she said - ruefully, “There is no life for taekwondo athletes!” Like a lot of fighters, she found that 2015 – which featured the Worlds, then the four tourneys of the Grand Prix in the second half, all with the long shadow of Rio 2016 looming ever closer - grueling. “It’s a crazy year!” she said. “It is really hard in the G1 and G2 tournaments, everyone wants the points so it is a very tough season, but it is the same for everybody. It’s fair.” Her favored techniques are the punch and

the high round kick from her leading leg. Asked to comment on her strengths as a fighter, she said: “My coach says I am like a soldier: I listen to what he says, and I am very persistent.” She admits, though, that she is not always able to capture her winning form. “Sometimes in a fight I am not in ‘the zone;’ I do something again and again and don’t get points,” she said. “I hope that is past.”

to be competing all the time,” she said. “Though maybe not every weekend!”

Now, with the 2015 fighting season having drawn to its end, the road to Rio 2016 is looking shorter and shorter.

One plus about the Olympics is the manageable competitor field. “When you know the final 16 fighters, you can prepare for each,” she said. “It is easier than the Grand Prix or the World Championships.”

After Mexico, Mandic will take a vacation, to rest and recover, and early in 2016 will attend several tourneys including the European Championships in Switzerland, just to keep her game sharp. “For me, it is better

Her biggest fear is one common to many athletes. “I try not to think any more about injuries, I had three this year,” she said. “I hope they are finished. But maybe…it’s very tricky; every athlete is afraid of injuries…”

Regardless of her result in Rio, she will continue to play the game. “I want to compete more after Rio; I will only be 24, and when

you see Gwladys Epangue and Brigitte Yague, they are in their 30s,” she said. “That is amazing for me.” And what is striking about the elite end of the sport in the current era, is that almost all the competitors are so convivial. “Everyone here, after the fights, are normal people and I like spending time with them,” she mused. “This is only taekwondo: Fair play is what we need to do on the court - and in life.”

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UZBEKISTAN

Dmitriy Shokin

Walks Bitter Road to Rio Even in a division known for its heavy hitters, Dmitriy Shokin stands out. But his closest competitor is his closest ally ...

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n combat sports, heavyweights are always crowd favorites: Think Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson in pro boxing, think Fedor Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar in MMA. And so it is with taekwondo: In the Moscow Grand Prix Series 1, everyone was keen to watch the big boys do battle. When the smoke cleared in the Dinamo Gymnasium, the last man standing in the men’s +80kg division was Uzbekistan’s Dmitriy Shokin. In his bouts, Shokin struck with power that was – well, shocking: The “thwack” impact of his kicks on his opponents’ body protector drew crowd gasps, and were audible even from the venue’s highest seats. His opponent in the final, Russia’s Vladislav Larin, employed classic understatement when asked what it felt like to be on the receiving end of Shokin’s shots: “Not very pleasant!” he said. Looking at the 23-year-old blond giant today – Shokin is built like a brick battleship – it is difficult to believe that he first took up taekwondo for self-defense. “When I was 7 years old, I started it to protect myself

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from certain people,” he said. But there was another inspiration: popular culture. “At that time I was watching a lot of Jackie Chan movies and I wanted to learn to fight like him,” he added. He certainly did that - though his original style was ITF. That caused some problems in the transition. “I did ITF taekwondo for 11 years and only five years ago, started training WTF, so I think that is why I only started to get results from last year,” he said. “In the ITF, I was a face puncher and sometimes, in WTF competition, I did that too!” Those old habits have now been comprehensively erased. The native of the Uzbek capital of Tashkent is one of the biggest names and most recognizable players on the competitive circuit. While there are many tall, lithe and leggy fighters across taekwondo’s weight divisions, Shokin’s rock-like physique generates formidable presence. Yet he speaks softly and is modest about his skills. “I use simple kicks – push kicks and side kicks - and sometimes I kick to the

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Dmitriy Shokin

‘I was watching a lot of Jackie Chan movies and I wanted to learn to fight like him’

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head,” he said. “So my fights are not that beautiful, but they get the results.” Shokin may be underselling himself: In his final fight against Larin, he employed dance-like arm and body feints – crowd-pleasing tactics often used by one of the most dominant and most stylish players on the circuit, Iran ‘s Mahdi Khodabakhshi. Incidentally, Shokin cites the Iranian as his most admired fighter.

‘From this year, my main priority has been to enjoy my fights. When I think about victory, I cannot concentrate’

‘My fights are not that beautiful, but they get the results’

2015 is proving to be a vintage year for the Uzbek, with Shokin capturing first-place finishes in every tourney he has entered: The Chelyabinsk World Championships, the Gwangju Summer Universiade, the Chuncheon Korean Open and now the Moscow Grand Prix, he said on the sidelines. “I want to keep the prestige of the world champion!” he said, meaningfully. One secret to his success is a paradox that many fighters mention: Don’t focus on the outcome; instead, enjoy the moment. “From this year, my main priority has been to enjoy my fights,” he said. “When I think about victory, I cannot concentrate.” That does not mean he is not confident. Asked to describe himself, Shokin said matter-of-factly, “I am a simple guy from Uzbekistan who is going to become an Olympic champion.” If that happens, he can expect a generous reward. A full-time athlete, all his training, living and competition expenses are paid for by the Uzbek federation. Currently, he trains four times a day and is only at home

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four days a month, but in his downtime, enjoys photography and photographic enhancement with software. In the future he would like to found his own company – “not a sport, business, I don’t know what kind yet” - which would be enabled by medals in Rio and/or Tokyo: “If I take gold, I will have enough money to start a business.” However, as Rio 2016 starts to cast its shadow over the competition circuit, an unhappy situation is brewing at the top of the heavyweight division. While Shokin is world-ranked number four – after Moscow, he moves up to the number two slot - the top ranked fighter in the male +80kg division is Shokin’s teammate and fellow Uzbek Jasur Baykuziyev. Due to nationality limitations in each weight class, only one of the pair will be able to qualify for the Olympics. “In Uzbekstan we are friendly; I call him ‘my brother’ and we respect each other,” Shokin said. “But he wants to go and I want to go; we are opponents.” Clearly, he is frustrated. “If the first six athletes qualify for the Games, why can’t two from the same country?” he asked. “If me and the other Uzbek are the best in the category, why can’t we both fight in the Games?” The answer to that is that sometimes, sport can be cruel. That bitter reality, over the rest of 2015, ignited a “brother-versus-brother” rivalry as the two heavy hitting Uzbeks embarked on their road to Rio – a destination that only one could reach.

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TURKEY

Servet Tazegul

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hey said he did “old-style taekwondo.” They said the sport had moved on. They said that, plagued by injuries, the European, Olympic and world champion was past his prime. Well, talk is cheap. On the night of May 15, 2015 in Chelyabinsk’s Traktor Arena, the most famed fighter in the sport delivered a bravura performance, electrified the taekwondo community and proved to the world that Servet Tazegul is most definitely back. In the finals of the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships - a tourney in which conservative, tactical fighters wielding front-leg cut kicks and push kicks dominated - Tazegul delivered a live technical seminar on taekwondo’s most spectacular techniques. The 26-year-old Turk, who teaches taekwondo in Nuremberg, is nicknamed “The Cheetah” and it is easy to see why: He is as fast, as stylish and as fearless as the killer cat. Facing Korea’s Dong-yun Shin in the first semifinal of the men’s -68kg final match, Tazegul stamped his personality on the match from the opening bell.

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Most fighters start slow, probing their opponent with jabbing kicks. Not Tazegul. The Turk lit up the scoreboard with three points courtesy of his bespoke jump spinning back kick - fired from impossibly close range - and letting rip with a war cry. Fighting from the clinch, he grabbed another point with a turning kick. The Korean scored, then the Turk unleashed a scorching spinning heel kick to Shin’s head - drawing a cheer from the crowd - that did not register on the protector and scoring system (PSS). Another spinning head kick was unleashed from the edge of the mats. Firing yet another jump spin kick, he was countered by the Korean in mid-flight and visited the mats. After a firefight of kickkick-kick, the Turk scored to the midsection. By the end of Round 2, it was 9-4 to Tazegul. Round 3 continued in fast and furious style, with kicks, clinch work and Shin responding

to the challenge, attempting to drop the ax on the shorter Turk. Tazegul raised the points to 13-7, then yet another jump spin back kick - fired yet again from crazy-close range - took the board to 16-7. With five seconds left, it was 16-11. The fight went right down to the bell, ending 16-13 to “The Cheetah” This was the taekwondo that the crowd had come to see; the Turk received an ovation as loud as that accorded to any of the Russian fighters. The final pitted “The Cheetah” against an opponent worthy of his skills. World-ranked number one Alexey Denisenko of Russia, bronze medalist in London 2012 and victor at the Grand Prix Final in Queretaro, Mexico in 2014, is another fearless, high-scoring fighter, noted for flamboyant high kicks and aerial attacks. Denisenko strode on to the battlefield to thunderous applause, followed by Tazegul, who raised his head protector in salute. Both fighters looked tense, perhaps sensing that there was more at stake than simply a world championship: The crowd was anticipating a classic match - a Hector versus Achilles, an Ali versus Frazier, a clash of titans. They were not disappointed. At the opening bell, Tazegul leapt into the attack, driving his opponent off the mat with serial jump spinning kicks, then opening the scoring with a one-point lead. After this initial explosion, things slowed down, but only briefly; then Tazegul unleashed his patented spin back kick, earning three points. Denisenko returned fire, connecting with a head kick from the clinch. Three points flashed up on the board - but were deducted: The hit had been on the break, taking the score back to 4-0 in the Turk’s favor. Both athletes recommenced, kicking with killer intent and Denisenko connected to the head. The scoreboard was flashing like a pinball machine: Round 1 ended 5-4 to Tazegul. Early in Round 2, Denisenko leveled it to 5-5. The crowd was in lunatic mode, as the two perfectly matched fighters unloaded tae-

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Servet Tazegul

‘Real champions are the ones who go down, then climb up to the top again’

‘In my style you have to be really strong on both legs, to be in really good condition. This is real taekwondo - the taekwondo that I love!’

‘They call me crazy, nobody can guess what I am going to do! But win or lose, I am happy’

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kwondo’s full arsenal on one another. The Turk fired a spin kick, the Russian shot back with a head kick, the Turk ducked under it. In blink-and-you-miss-it action, the board flashed to 6-6, then 7-7. In Round 3 Tazegul punched and Denisenko responded with a left-right kick barrage. Tazegul’s wicked spinning back kick struck again, taking his score to 10 points. Denisenko tried to drop the ax, but slipped. In the dying seconds, the Russian appeared to land a head kick but to no avail: the round ended; the smoke cleared; and “The Cheetah” was world champion with a score of 10-7.

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uninteresting to watch, he said: “The reason I started taekwondo was because of Jackie Chan movies with spinning kicks. [In the current style] you have to make a strong front leg, but in my style you have to be really strong on both legs, to be in really good conditions. This is real taekwondo - the taekwondo that I love!”

win or lose, I am happy. I see all taekwondo as a big family and if, among this family, someone gets the prize instead of me, that is OK.” Everybody in Chelyabinsk – athletes, coaches, fans, officials – was talking about his match; his return to form was great news for

It was not just a convincing performance, but a relief, for the Turkish legend has been impacted by a series of events that have cracked his focus, damaged his body and kept him off the mats. Just before the 2012 Olympics, his mother – to whom he was very close – passed away. After winning gold in London, he suffered a series of injuries: Torn foot muscles, knee problems, a broken hand, a broken toe. More happily, he has also bought a house, got married and has a child on the way. “There have been a lot of things, I have not been in the arenas,” he said. “But real champions are the ones who go down, then climb up to the top again. That motivates me a lot - I want to show that I am a real champion.” He had not expected to take gold in Chelyabinsk. “Coming here I was targeting medals, any medals, not the gold,” he said. “I did not know myself how I was going to make it: Each round, the first preliminary, the second preliminary, each fight motivated me more and more, and in the semifinals, I told myself, ‘Don’t think about my opponent - they have to think about me!’” And there was a deeper motivation for the day of the finals was a very personal one for Tazegul. “As soon as I saw the timetable, I knew that was her birthday,” he said. “I wanted to get that medal for my mom.” Speaking the day after his victory, Tazegul was critical of the current generation. Calling the dominant front-leg, tactical game

Remarkably Tazegul says his clash against Denisenko was not his optimum game. “It was not really my old form,” he said. “There were many targets I aimed for but could not make. The old Servet would have hit those targets.” But his kind of high-impact, high-level taekwondo is also high risk: While he scores a lot of points, Tazegul’s offensive style also makes him easier to score against than cagier fighters. “They call me crazy, nobody can guess what I am going to do,” he said. “But

the sport. “We saw tactics and strategy, but we also saw the kind of dynamic action we want in taekwondo competition,” said Mike McKenzie, the WTF’s TV commentator of the Tazegul-Denisenko epic. “This is what makes taekwondo exciting.” Tazegul subsequently competed in every competition available to earn ranking points for the Olympics - and qualified. But watch him while you can. After Rio, “The Cheetah” will be retiring from the mats.

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Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

GERMANY

Levent Tuncat

‘This time I will enjoy the Olympics. It may be my last tourney’

Against All Odds Elite athletes know pain - few more than Levent Tuncat. But neither pain nor injury has stopped him so far ...

ma Cho. “The mat was slippery,” he said. “I could not move or step.” Even so, he tied the scoring to 7-7. Then he slipped again - and felt something go inside his hip. He stood up – only to be felled again. And again. Watching the agony in the ring, the crowd fell silent as Tuncat stood again and again, endeavoring to continue. Even his opponent motioned that the match should not continue – and common sense prevailed. “I was in so much pain, I could not hold my leg up,” he said. He conceded.

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Things had been different in 2015’s second GP in Samsun, Turkey where Tuncat – leveraging hometown support; though a German national, he is of Turkish descent – grabbed the silver after a spectacular display in the finals. The question now is: Will he be fit for Rio? event Tuncat of Germany was looking forward to the 2015 WTF World Grand Prix Series 3.

The main striking force of Team Germany and the world-ranked number five, Tuncat had a “good feeling about Manchester,” a city where he had qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in 2007, and won the British Open twice, in 2009 and 2011. With the season finale looming in Mexico, he was anticipating a medal. Things, however, did not go according to

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plan. Tuncat is a player in the same class and spirit as Turkey’s Servet Tazegul, Moldova’s Aaron Cook and Belgium’s Jaouad Achab: An offensive, spin-kicking, crowd-pleasing fighter. But in his first match, fate conspired against him. He tried two spin kicks. Both times, he slipped to the mat, earning penalties. It was a new mat and a jinxed one: It had previously felled Russia’s Alexey Denisenko, France’s Gwladys Epangue and Great Britain’s Maha-

The medical prognosis is unclear. But among elite taekwondo fighters, a group of people fully familiarized with injury management, few have come back from so many injuries - and other misfortunes - more frequently than Tuncat. In 2010 the Duisburg native, now 27, suffered a major injury that took him out of the game for over six months. In 2011, he suffered torn ligaments. In 2012, just before the London Olympic qualification, it was a knee problem. And in 2013, he broke a hand. Each time, he

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Levent Tuncat

Rio 2016: Meet the Elite

GERMANY

‘I was in so much pain, I could not hold my leg up’

‘If you see a match of three rounds with just the front leg, everybody sits down, but when I spin, everybody stands up!’

‘I stopped taekwondo, and new young people came in, and the systems changed - but I love taekwondo’

recovered. Each time, he came back fighting.

star.’”

But even this smorgasbord of injuries would not be as significant as a very different issue: the departure of the coach who had raised him from child to champ.

The subsequent coach-athlete relationship would last 20 years. Then, after the London Games, Mutlu dropped a bombshell, telling Tuncat that he was leaving Germany to retire in Turkey. “I did not believe it! At the end of 2013, I had no coach or training partners – nothing!” Tuncat recalled. “This was before the French Open in 2013 and I thought, ‘Levent: What are you going to do now?’”

At the age of 3, the tiny Tuncat had been introduced to football. “My father put me into soccer, but my legs were high: I liked it when the ball came aerial, I did not like to play on the ground!” His father, noting this unusual proclivity, took his son to the taekwondo club of Coach Cevdet Mutlu. “When the coach saw some movements in the first training session, he said, ‘He will be very good, he will be a

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Although a member of the German squad, most of his training had been in Mutlu’s club. With that gone, he decided to attend a fitness club and run and train alone, before and

after work. That situation lasted for a year and a half as he got on with the rest of his life – he is married and works at Krupp - and pondered his future in the sport. “You can say I stopped taekwondo, and new young people came in, and the systems changed - but I love taekwondo.” His decision was to return to the fold. “I thought I did so much for this sport, so I had to give back,” he said. “I was in the Olympics, I was a three-time European Champion, so I said, ‘OK, Levent: You can go to Rio.’” He relocated to Bonn, to train under the head coach of the national team. In a reversal of

his earlier bad luck, he was able to make the move thanks to a fortuitous combination of circumstances. His wife fully supported him; Krupp gave him special leave; and the German government granted him an athlete’s stipend. He also had his first son in April 2015. At the French Open in December 2013, Tuncat was 60-70 in the rankings, but his talent reasserted itself: Within six months, he was seeded in the top 10. In 2015, the results have been flowing in. Tuncat took bronze at the European Games, bronze at the Moscow GP Series 1 and silver at the Samsun GP Series 2. “I was away for one-and-a-half years,” he

said. “I like old-style taekwondo, it was the power techniques, not the front leg.” He has now added elements of the front leg style to his game, but maintains his trademark spinning kicks. “I mix old and new styles - when I see the situation I do my spinning kicks.” It is a risky, but crowd-pleasing tactic. “If you see a match of three rounds with just the front leg, everybody sits down, but when I spin, everybody stands up,” he said. “This pushes me.” He has other motivations in life. His second son, Efdal, was born while Tuncat was competing at the World Military Games, or CISM, in Korea.

Given the Manchester injury, questions now hang over his fitness for Rio. But even if he does go to the Olympics, Tuncat is mature enough not to go into it with an all-in, “door-die” attitude. “If I am in the top six, I will take a holiday before Rio - I have had no time for two years, it was all preparation and training,” he said. “I am not stressed; I went to the Olympics in 2008 and was under so much pressure as everybody thought I would take gold, but I lost in the first match. This time I will enjoy the Olympics. It may be my last tourney.”

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GREAT BRITAIN

Bianca Walkden

‘Queen Bee’ Seizes Championship Crown

Her room-mate is an Olympic gold medalist and her boyfriend is a superstar. Now Bianca Walkden is a world champion herself

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alk about living in the moment. Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden, fifth-ranked in the world, was one point behind her opponent, a two-time world champion - and with just four seconds left on the clock, she was four seconds from defeat.

Fighting in the female +73kg category, at the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships, Walkden – known to her team as “Queen Bee,” a play on her abbreviated name - was facing off against French powerhouse Gwladys Epangue. In Round 1, the taller Briton had started fast, firing jackhammer side kicks: her stockier opponent had kept her distance and stalked from the center of the ring. There was a brief flurry of venomous kicks, but neither found the range, with the French girl daring Walkden to score by opening her arms. The round ended 0-0. A lackluster Round 2 also ended with the scoreboard empty. Round 3, however, brimmed with drama. Epangue connected with a turning kick to the body, giving her a one-point lead. She maintained that until, with just 22 seconds remaining, she slipped to the mats as the British girl scored to the head. Three points appeared on the board - but were disallowed. Moreover, Walkden lost a penalty point, putting her down, 2-0. But Walkden was unfazed. “I did not even think about it,” she said. “I was in the zone.” With 10 seconds remaining, the French girl fell again – her second fall, granting Walkden a point. When play recommenced, there were just four seconds left on the clock, meaning Walkden had to open fire with all weapons. An earlier moment in the match had given her the sense that she should be sniping for the shorter French girl’s head. “I was looking for the head - it was that or the back kick – as I had tried to get her early, and had nearly got her,” she said. From in close, Walkden hefted her leg up for an ax kick … With head kicks and spin kicks offering maximum points, it is feasible in taekwondo – and it happened again and again in Chelyabinsk – to fire a 3-point high-level, high-risk technique and take the match from behind, in the closing seconds. Was this Walkden’s strategy? “It was not planned, you get taught never to give up,” Walkden said. “It does not matter how long is left, you don’t stop to the end.” … and her chopping foot flashed down onto Epangue’s head guard. The points rang up: 4-2. Even so, the Queen Bee was primed to sting again. “As soon I saw the score, I thought, ‘Don’t let her score, don’t let her in, don’t let her attack,’” she recalled. The timer registered 00:00. In the stands, the British team erupted in roars, cheers and air punches. Epangue looked disbelieving – as did Walken, who fully focused, who had not realized it was over.

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Bianca Walkden

GREAT BRITAIN “I was ready to fight,” she recalled. “Then I turned round and I was world champion!”

‘You get taught never to give up, it does not matter how long is left, you don’t stop to the end’

Walkden has no hard feelings for her opponent. “She is a legend, she is a really lovely girl, she is an inspiration for everyone, she is a credit to the sport,” she said. And apparently, Epangue has no hard feelings against Walkden. “She is fine,” Walkden said. “She knows what it is all about. It [competitive taekwondo] is a random thing, it can change in seconds.” The victory was particularly sweet as Walkden had just come out of rehab from knee surgery. “It has been really intense, my body has gone through so much trauma,” she said. “It has only been getting easier after the end of March when I started training, I was not fully fit yet and most people would not even be running – but I’ve won a world championship!” “What she has done is truly inspirational, coming back from injury,” said Gary Hall, performance director for GB Taekwondo. “The medical team, the coaching team and the physical conditioning team never gave up on the hope of world championship success for Bianca, even in the darkest moments.” Walkden expected to be back on full form for the Autumn season. She competed at the European Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, and attended all the 2015 Grand Prix events. “I’d go even if I was world number one,” she said. “I love fighting!”

‘I was ready to fight then I turned round and I was world champion!’

‘It has been really intense, my body has gone through so much trauma. It has only been getting easier after the end of March when I started training’

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The 23-year-old hails from Liverpool but lives in Manchester, the “Mecca” of British taekwondo. A 12-year veteran of the combat sport, Walkden is a full-time athlete, paid for by UK Sport. And she has that spark of star quality. On paper she is a heavyweight, but in person she is tall, slim and good looking, with a soft Liverpool accent. Her best friend and Manchester room-mate is Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones – “We have lived together for years, we thought we would be together for a long time, so we thought we should be mates!’ - who Walkden surely deserves to join as one of the sport’s most famous female faces.

Oddly, no commercial sponsors have yet stepped forward, though her new world-champion status might change that.

For an athlete who stole a world championship just four seconds from defeat, that’s a maxim to live by.

“I have not got any sponsors, so I am looking for an agent to try and get my face out there before Rio,” she said. “Taekwondo is not a massive sport but if I go home and get an agency I will let them do it [find sponsors] while I achieve the dream: To win the Olympics as many times as I can, not just once!” One sponsor that would be a good fit could be BMW. Like the German car, the British girl is sleekly engineered with a powerful engine, but there is another reason: “I am Bianca Michaela Walkden, so we have the same initials!” she laughed. When it comes to taekwondo’s public profile, she has some advice for the sport’s administrators. One issue is that - encased in head gear, body protector and dobok - the sport’s attractive young athletes all look pretty well indistinguishable, nixing both individuality and sex appeal. “The suit is very respectful, there is a Korean tradition with it, but if you bought it in a little tighter, with leggings, maybe more men would watch the girls,” she said. “You never know!” Walkden is currently focused on Olympic qualification; in the future she would like to open a gym and coach taekwondo. And the sport is not just Walkden’s career and passion, it has also supplied her with romance: She and superstar Aaron Cook have been an item since the two were 16. But with Cook having departed Team GB and fighting for Moldova, who would she cheer for if her beau was fighting fellow teammate Damon Sansum? “I will support Aaron if he fights GB,” she said. “But I will support GB all the way, I really like Damon.” So could there be wedding bells ahead - or perhaps even a taekwondo super child springing from a possible Cook-Walkden union? On this question, Walkden was coy. “That’s the future, isn’t it?” she said. “You have to live for the moment.”

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Best World Championships Ever In the heart of Russia, the city of Chelyabinsk hosted the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships, setting a benchmark likely to endure for years to come 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships Location: Chelyabinsk, Russia Dates: May 12-18, 2015

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helyabinsk, Russia was the setting for the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships – an event that featured not only the world’s finest taekwondo athletes in action, but a spectacular opening ceremony, full-on spectator engagement and a historic, first-ever joint demonstration by the world’s two major taekwondo bodies. In the WTF’s 22nd World Championships, eight male and eight female weight categories were contested by 872 athletes from 139 countries. After six days of combat, from May 12-18, Iran took the overall male title, and Korea clinched the overall female crown. In the women’s category, Korea came top with three gold medals, followed by Chinese Taipei with one gold, one silver and one bronze, and Turkey with one gold, one silver and one bronze. Golds were won by Thailand in the female -46kg category, Korea at -49kg, Korea at -53kg, Japan at -57kg, Turkey at -62kg, Chinese Taipei at -67kg, Korea at -73kg, and Great Britain at +73kg. In the men’s category, Iran topped others with three golds and one bronze, followed by Russia with two silvers and three bronzes, and Uzbekistan with one gold and two silvers. Golds were won by Korea in the male -54kg category, Iran at -58kg, Belgium/WTF at -63kg, Turkey at -68kg, Iran at -74kg,

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Iran at -80kg, Azerbaijan at -87kg, and Uzbekistan at +87kg. Chelyabinsk, the capital of Russia’s South Urals Province, is famed as the arsenal that forged the USSR’s key weapons in World War II - the tanks and 112

artillery pieces that shattered Hitler’s fascist legions. As a result of this heritage, the city is nicknamed “Tankograd,” and a huge “Josef Stalin” tank charges across a plinth in a city-center park. On May 9, 2015, just three

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days prior to the opening of the championships, the visiting WTF delegation was granted a very special honor by the city: It was invited to view Chelyabinsk’s “Victory Day” parade as it marched through the city’s downtown, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of mankind’s most terrible war. Today, Chelyabinsk remains an industrial hub, but it is also known as an arsenal for taekwondo athletes, forging some of Team Russia’s top warriors. To welcome the World Championships, the city’s downtown was bedecked with banners advertising the event, while the halls of the event venue - the city’s Traktor Arena - featured giant blow-ups of WTF photographers’ most spectacular shots.

Outside the venue’s entrance, a spectator-engagement area with souvenirs, taekwondo experience mats, a handicraft zone, folk dancers, sabre-twirling Cossacks and even a WTF camel, was humming with visitors. Chelyabinsk’s Traktor Arena was transformed into a fantasy festival hall as the championships’ opening ceremony got underway on May 12: It featured dancers, acrobats, ninja turtles, robots and - for the first time ever - a joint demonstration by teams representing the two major bodies that administer the sport globally. It started with live music and Central Asia-themed dance routines, followed by a fantasia of schoolchildren, dancing to pulsating turbo techno beats.

The children were joined by a zany collection of knights, pirates, robots - even a duo of ninja turtles, before acrobats scaled ropes dangling from the ceiling and a pair of cloth galleons ascended into the air, while yet more dancers, trampoline performers and acrobats created further whirling, jiumping and spinning tableaus. After a taekwondo performance by Russian children, the athletes marched into the venue under the flags of the 139 participating nations. VIPs – Governor of Chelyabinsk Boris Dubrovskiy; WTF President Chungwon Choue; Deputy Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation Pavel Novikov; and Russian Taekwondo Union President Anatoly Terekhov - were introduced and delivered brief speeches.

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WTF World Championships / Chelyabinsk

WTF and ITF Break Boards, Smash Barriers Historic, First-Ever Joint Demonstration Then it was time for a historic first: a joint demonstration by the world’s two major taekwondo bodies. These are the Seoul-headquartered WTF, which includes South Korea in its membership, and the Vienna-headquartered, ITF, or International Taekwondo Federation, which counts North Korea among its members. A special message from UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon was read out in which he said the event was, “breaking barriers,” and would be “a step toward dialog and reconciliation.” IOC President Thomas Bach delivered a pre-recorded speech in which he said he “valued the cooperation” between the two federations and called the demonstration “a firm foundation for the future.” The performances – each 20-minutes long - illustrated both what unites and divides the federations which administer taekwondo globally. The ITF demonstration team, largely North Koreans, but including Russians and Czechs, came on first. Coordinated group poomsae and a display of break-falling – a skill rarely seen in WTF taekwondo - was followed by combat line drills. A trio of female athletes in black demonstrated self-defense, then a choreographed fight routine against male “attackers” that drew both gasps and laughs from the audience. Advanced breaks included an aerial split kick-round kick combo, and a somersaulting double heel kick break. Group fights featured such unusual techniques as head butts, drop spinning sweeps, sacrifice throws and aerial leg takedowns. The male performers then removed their doboks – revealing toned torsos and drawing a few wolf whistles – and endured strikes across their limbs and torsos from four-by-twos, leaving the field of play littered with splintered timber.

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Then it was the WTF’s turn. Mainly South Korean, the team also included a Turk and three Russians. The difference between the two demo teams was clear from attire: The ITF appeared in classic white; the WTF in red and yellow, blue and white. Another difference was presentation: The ITF used no aural backing; the WTF team performed to piped-in music. The opening was real showmanship. A tableau of punches and kicks against a backdrop of the flags of Russia and the WTF. After a lightning costume change, came a funky fusion of poomsae and modern dance. The tempo changed when the master coach performed a set of power breaks, then the team carried out blindfold breaks guided onto target by hand bells. This was followed by a series of brilliantly coordinated breaks in which both the holders and the board breakers were leaping and spinning. Things changed again with Slavic dancing and a display of the Russian national colors. The iconic Korean folk song “Arirang” played as the team performed poomse, before a final pair of high kicks unfurled banners advertising the Chelyabinsk championships. Yet if the ITF demonstration could be classified as “traditional” and the WTF’s as “creative;” if the ITF team focused more on power and the WTF more on finesse; if the ITF show was low-tech, and the WTF high- tech; it was evident that the techniques had more similarities than differences. The precedent-setting joint performance – which reduced one senior ITF member to tears – was followed by the ceremony’s finale. Russian youth taekwondo players joined the WTF and ITF teams to perform a series of basic movements.

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Female

Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit, the world-ranked number 10, faced Ukraine’s Iryna Romoldanova, the world-ranked number eight. The Thai, with bobbed hair and flashing grin, looked cheerful as she prepared for battle; the Ukrainian looked nervy. It proved a see-saw match. Wongpattanakit, with a slight reach advantage, took control of the center of the ring from the opening and pressed Romaldonova, firing off ambidextrous kicks. Her opponent played a cagier game, favoring her front foot. Romoldanova drew first blood – but the score was almost immediately reversed. At the end of Round 1, it was 3-2 to Wongpattanakit. Round 2 saw the Thai fighter leveraging her leg length and ring control, ending the round 5-2 up. Round 3 started

On the Edge of the Mats at the

2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships The next day, the 22nd World Taekwondo Championships got underway in earnest. Chelyabinsk is a sport-loving city and the event finals were fought against a high-energy backdrop, with roars of applause and thunder stick clashes greeting the ring battles, and Mexican waves rolling through the crowd. The action on the mats was punctuated with the ring announcer’s enthusiastic delivery; rounds were interspersed with pounding pop music.

Male

-58kg Category Final

This final saw world number-one ranked Farzan “The Tsunami” Ashourzadeh Fallah of Iran take on Belgian Si Mohammed Ketbi, who was fighting under the WTF flag and was ranked ninth. The Iranian is one of the most dominant fighters in taekwondo today; Ketbi is still at school, but the two have similar styles: Both are tall, leggy athletes who fight tactically, using conservative, long-range techniques, mostly to the body. The Iranian loped onto the mat with a broad grin and opened the scoring as the pair put on a display of foot fencing; the round ended 3-0 in the Iranian’s favor. Ketbi fought back in Round 2, varying his attack

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-46kg Category Final

Female with punches. At the end of the round, it was 5-2 to the Iranian. In Round 3, Ashourzadeh Fallah controlled the center of the court like the master of physical chess he is: With only 30 seconds left on the clock, it was 7-2 to the Iranian. The Belgian upped his work rate, but was not firing the kind of high-scoring, high-risk techniques he needed to. Though he unleashed a head kick in the final seconds, it was too little, too late. “The Tsunami” flashed a huge grin and pointed at the crowd. Final score: 8-3. With Ketbi taking silver, Russia’s Ruslan Poiseev and China’s Shuai Zhao won bronzes.

off with more foot fencing, then Romoldanova levelled the score to 5-5, with a jackhammer side kick to the torso. The match went to golden point. For the first minute and a half, it was tactical combat with no score, meaning Wongpattanakit would likely win on superiority (i.e. the number of impacts on the padding). In the last 20 seconds, Romoldanova went for broke, charging her opponent with a barrage of kicks, but she had left it too late: Her last kick landed - literally - as the Thai raised her hands in victory to take the gold. Wan-ting Lin of Chinese Taipei and Brazil’s Iris Tang Sing both took home bronzes but Romoldanova had won her country its first-ever World Taekwondo Championships medal.

-49kg Category Final

The final of the female -49kg looked like a mismatch as the world-ranked 96 took on a double Olympic gold medalist. Korea’s Min-ah Ha, 96th ranked by the WTF, faced 17th ranked Jingyu Wu of China, a double Olympic gold medalist from London 2012 and Beijing 2008 who was returning to taekwondo after a layoff. Ha looked composed, Wu determined as they strode onto the battleground. Both share similar attributes: excellent timing, distancing, flexibility and tactics. Ha drew first blood almost immediately with a body kick; Wu returned fire, evening the score to 1-1. In Round 2, Wu’s

lightning right leg gave her a two-point lead as the Korean’s pace slowed - then Wu back-pedaled around the perimeter as Ha got her second wind. In Round 3, with 18 seconds left on the clock, Ha’s coach appealed a head kick - unsuccessfully. Tension mounted. Ha pulled back a point to 2-3, then – in the last second! - evened the fight to 3-3. In golden point, Wu looked more aggressive, but seconds in, it was Ha who caught the Chinese player in the midsection, becoming, against all odds, world champion; an astonishing victory. Bronzes were won by Russia’s Svetlana Igumenova and Serbia’s Tijana Bogdanovic.

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Male

-74kg Category Final

In this category, Iran’s Masoud “The Warrior” Hajizavareh took on Uzbekistan’s Nikita Rafalovich. From the start, neither man gave an inch, dueling in center court. Hajizavareh caught the Uzbek by surprise with a high kick, winning three points, following up with a punch, for a 4-0 lead. Trusting to his reflexes and distancing, Hajizavareh dropped down into low, open stances, taunting his opponent. Rafalovich was game, but the Iranian’s accuracy proved superior: another out-of-the-blue ax

WTF World Championships / Chelyabinsk

Male kick rattled Rafalovich. Round 2 ended 2-8. In the final round, Rafalovich finally found his distance, clawing back the score to 4-8, before the match degenerated into a scrappy affair of clinching - during which the Iranian stole another point with a rabbit kick. As the seconds counted down, the Uzbek went all out, but Hajizavareh kept his cool and took the title 9-7. Bronzes were won by Russia’s Albert Gaun and Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly.

-68kg Category Final

The final of this category proved to what posterity will surely rank as a classic match – one that fans will be watching for years to come – as world-ranked number one Alexei Denisenko of Russia took on Turkey’s Servet “The Cheetah” Tazegul, the gold medalist in London 2012. The Russian is known for his flamboyant aerial techniques, while the fearless Tazegul is one of the most exciting fighters ever to don a dobok. Denisenko strode on to the mats to thunderous applause from the hometown crowd, followed by Tazegul, who raised

his head protector in salute. Both looked tense, perhaps sensing that there was more at stake than simply a world championship: The crowd was anticipating a classic battle – a Hector versus Achilles, an Ali versus Frazier. And they were not disappointed. At the opening bell, Tazegul leapt into the attack, driving his opponent off the mat with serial jumping spinning kicks and opening the scoring with a one-point lead. After this initial explosion, things briefly slowed down - then Tazegul unleashed his patented spin back kick, earning three points. Denisenko

returned fire, connecting with a head kick from the clinch. Three points flashed up on the board but were deducted: The hit had been on the break. Both athletes recommenced, kicking with real venom, and Denisenko connected to the head. Round 1 ended 5-4 to Tazegul. Early in Round 2 Denisenko leveled it to 5-5, driving the crowd wild as they watched two perfectly matched fighters firing taekwondo’s full arsenal at one another. The Turk fired a spin kick, the Russian shot back with a head kick, the Turk ducked it. In blink-and-you-miss-it action,

Female

Female

-67kg Category Final

The world number- eight, Chia Chia Chuang of Chinese Taipei squared off against seventh-ranked Nur Tatar of Turkey. The match started with cautious foot jabbing, but with neither fighter finding the range, the round ended 0-0. In the second, with the referee demanding action, Chuang finally connected, scoring a single point with a turning kick to the body. In the third, the action briefly heated up, but despite the flurry

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of techniques, the scoreboard remained frozen. Only in the last 15 seconds did the Turk engage all-out-attack mode. In a flurry of kicks, she drove her opponent to the edge of the mats – only to impale herself on Chuang’s perfectly-timed spin kick, earning the athlete from Chinese Taipei a convincing 5-0 victory and the world championship gold. Paige McPherson of the U.S.A. and Colombia’s Katherine Dumar went home with bronzes.

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MMA VIP Likes WTF TKD

the board went to 6-6, then 7-7. In Round 3 Tazegul punched and Denisenko responded with a left-right kick barrage. Tazegul’s wicked spinning back kick struck again, taking his score to 10 points. Denisenko tried to drop the ax, but fell. In the dying seconds, the Russian appeared to land a head kick but to no avail. The round ended, the smoke cleared, the score was 10-7 and the world champion was Servet Tazegul. An awesome, awesome match. Korea’s Dong-yun Shin and Spain’s Jose Antonio Rosillo Atencia won bronzes.

-53kg Category Final

Korea’s 17-year-old Geum-byeol Lim, world-ranked 27, took on Chinese Taipei’s Yun-wen Huang, the top seed in the category, for the gold. The opening round was lackluster. Both athletes foot-fenced, leaving the scoreboard frozen at the end of the round. The second was livelier. Lim’s entertainingly vocal coach appealed a head kick, which was awarded, giving her three points. Lim then grabbed another point, compelling Huang to attack. She drove Lim to the edge of the mats, picking up two points in the process. The round

ended 5-2 to Lim. Round 3 began with Huang driving Lim around the perimeter and the score rose to 6-3, then another appeal by the Korean coach was accepted, granting nine points to Lim. Yet another video replay appeal was rejected. With 25 seconds to go, Huang went all out, but the match ended 10-5 to the Korean youth – the second upset of the championships to be delivered by the Korean women’s squad. Greece’s Andriana Asprogeraka and Croatia’s Ana Zaninovic won bronzes.

Among VIP visitors to the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships was one man who knows a thing of two about combat himself: Russian sambo fighter and mixed martial arts champion Fedor Emelianenko. The soft-spoken MMA legend spent two days in the arena, mixing with officials, players and spectators.

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Female

+73kg Category Final

Great Britain’s fifth-ranked Bianca “Queen Bee” Walkden faced off against French legend Gwladys Epangue, fourth-ranked in the world. In Round 1, the tall, leggy Briton started fast, firing jackhammer side kicks: her stockier, powerful-looking opponent kept her distance and stalked the center of the ring. There was a brief flurry of venomous kicks, but neither found the range, with the French girl daring Walkden to score by opening her arms. The round ended with the scores level at 0-0. Round 2 also ended with the scoreboard empty. Round 3, however, was high drama. Epangue finally connected with a round kick to the body, giving her a one-point lead. She

Male

Male

maintained that until, with just 22 seconds remaining, the French girl faltered and the British girl scored to the head. Three points appeared on the board - but were disallowed. The British girl lost a penalty point, then, with 10 seconds left, the French girl fell again – the two falls giving Walkden a point. With barely seconds left on the clock, Walkden, firing on all cylinders, connected with a crescent kick to the head. The points flashed up, the disbelieving Epangue looked devastated and the final score was 4-2 to the Briton with the sting in her tail. Turkey’s Nafia “The Amazon” Kus and Chelyabinsk native Olga Ivanova of Russia took bronzes.

-54kg Category Final

Tae-hun Kim of Korea, the defending world champion, took on 25th ranked Russian Denisov Stanislav who entered the field of play to booming applause. In Round 1 the Russian fought flamboyantly with spinning and jumping kicks while the Korean played a tactical game, controlling center ring. Neither registered a hit, leaving the board empty at the end of Round 1. In Round 2, the Korean scored with a fast turning kick to the body, then another, giving him a twopoint lead. Denisov tried to land his flying spinning back kick, but

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In this division, Radik Isaev of Azerbaijan faced Jasur Baykuziyev of Uzbekistan. Things started slowly, with both men probing at long range. The round ended 0-0. In the second, Isaev landed a body kick, taking the round 1-0. Round 3 was far more action-packed. Isaev stabbed away with his side kick; Baykuziyev tried to close the gap with punches. Isaev struck with a turning kick to the body after his ringcraft put his opponent on the edge of the mats, then added another point, making it 3-0. The Uzbek landed a crescent kick to the face that did not score; he immediately signaled his coach, who flashed his red card for a replay. Result: no score. Then Baykuziyev fell, axed with a heel kick to the back

Female Kim kept racking up the points, ending the round 5-0. In Round 3, Kim, his target-radar firmly locked on, fired fast and furious, opening his lead to 9-0. The Russian finally scored, winning three points with a spin back kick, then charged into the attack. In the dying seconds, the two athletes went at each other all out - spinning, jumping and kicking. The final score, after the last, explosive seconds, was 14-7 to Kim. Venilton Torres of Brazil and Ramnarong Sawekwiharee of Thailand shared bronze medals.

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-87kg Category Final

of the head. There was a brief pause while medics came on. He was soon up again, having been awarded a penalty point, but Isaev took his score back up, 5-1. With 30 seconds remaining, Baykuziyev went into full attack mode, lifting the score to 5-3, and forcing his larger opponent of the mat with a flurry of techniques. With seven seconds on the clock, he was head-hunting, pressuring the back-pedaling Isaev. Two seconds out, the Uzbek had raised the score to 5-4, but it was too late to equalize. As the bell went, a delighted Isaev hurled his head gear to the mat and grabbed his coach in a bear hug. Bronzes went to Vladislav Larin of Russia and Rafael Castillo of Cuba.

-73kg Category Final

Korea’s Hye-ri Oh went into action against China’s Shuyin Zheng - and the two got straight down to business. In a flurry of flying feet, the score went 1-1, then 2-2. After a brief pause, Oh landed a side kick, but this, too, was soon equalized, leaving the scoreboard at 3-3. In Round 2, Zheng pressed forward, putting Oh on the back leg, but the Korean was not intimidated and raised the score to 4-3. The round ended with some scrappy work as both girls closed

from kicks to clinches. In the last round, Zheng went in pursuit of Oh, but could not connect. More clinchwork followed, then in the last 35 seconds, Zheng levelled it to 4-4. The Korean, who had been leading consistently, returned fire almost immediately. When the bell went, Oh’s coach leapt into the air with delight at a 5-4 victory. Croatia’s Iva Rados and Team USA’s Jackie Galloway settled for bronzes.

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Male

+87kg Category Final

For gold in the men’s heavyweight category, Dmitriy Shokin of Uzbekistan squared off with the crowd-pleasing Firmin Zokou of Cote d’Ivoire. Round 1 started with foot fencing and probing, then, in a flurry of shots, the scoreboard rang up 3-2 to the Uzbek. Round 2 was a rough affair. Zokou held firm, not retreating an inch. In an intense, close-in exchange, Shokin took a punch in the mouth; after being examined by medics, he was awarded a penalty point. Action restarted and he scored with his own fist, taking the board to 5-2. Both athletes were now fighting with wicked intensity. Zokou clawed back the score to 3-2, then, in a flurry, the board shot up to 6-6. Suddenly, it was 6-9 as Zokou connected with a side kick-jump spinning back kick combination – perhaps the most spectacular combo yet seen in the finals, a technique more commonly seen in kung fu cinema than actual sportive competition. An appeal by Shokin was denied, leaving the Cote d’Ivorian in the lead. Round 3 started with fireworks.

The Uzbek fired side kicks and ax kicks, even landing a flying side kick, but not scoring. With a body kick, Zokou went up, 10-6. Shokin fought back with kickpunch combos, winning a point, then another, making it 9-10. In the last ten seconds, another punch took the scores to 10-10, but the board readjusted to 9-10. With five seconds remaining, the Uzbek coach appealed what appeared to be a point deduction for grabbing. It was successful. The board returned to 10-10. Neither man scored, taking the fight to sudden death. The two shook hands before the final showdown. Then it was game on. Zokou attacked with an overhand punch - but from underneath, displaying perfect timing, Shokin buried a side kick in the African’s chest guard, winning golden point and gold medal. The Uzbek grabbed his coach in a bear hug, while Zokou hurled away his head gear and sank to the mat, devastated. Robelis Despaigne of Cuba and Anthony Obame of Gabon won bronzes.

WTF World Championships / Chelyabinsk

Female

-62kg Category Final

In this division, Turkey’s Irem Yaman faced Spain’s Marta Calvo Gomez. Both girls kicked off with stabbing side kicks, then varied their attacks with head kicks, but it was the Spaniard who scored first with a turning kick, ending Round 1, 1-0. Early in Round 2, the Turkish athlete found the range and took the score to 3-1; both girls then closed and fought, with the round ending 2-4 to Yaman. In Round 3, the Spaniard sneaked a hook kick to the body;

Female

-57kg Category Final

The final of the division pitted Japan’s Maya Hamada against Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez – Marta’s sister. At the start, Carlo Gomez looked livelier, circling her bigger opponent, flicking out her front leg like a snake’s tongue. But it was Hamada who got the first hit, a turning kick to the body, ending Round 1 1-0. The second round got off at a quick pace with front leg action from both girls and Hamada raising the score to 2-0 before Calvo Gomez connected, making it 2-1. Then Hamada kicked on the mid-line and, without dropping her foot, doubled up high, catching the

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the Turk fired back with a series of machine-gun turning kicks to the head taking the board to 4-7, then 4-8. With the seconds ticking away, Calvo Gomez was forced to attack, which was risky: Yaman had looked dangerous on the counter. Carlo Gomez fought forward and paid the price: The Turk landed on the high line, winning gold with a convincing 14-4 win. Rachelle Booth of Great Britain and Viktoryia Belanouskaya of Belarus had to settle for bronzes.

unsuspecting Spaniard on the head guard with a turning kick. Round 2 ended 5-1 to Hamada. Seeking a high-scoring technique, Carlo Gomez let rip in Round 3 with a series of spin heel head kicks, but failed to connect. In the last 30 seconds, she pressured the Japanese fighter to the edge of the mats and raised the board to 3-5, but too late: The match ended with gold for Hamada and the championship’s second silver for a Calvo Gomez. Iran’s Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin and Hungary’s Edina Kotsis won bronzes.

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WTF World Championships / Chelyabinsk

Male

-63kg Category Final

Belgian Jaouad Achab, fighting under the WTF flag, took on Spaniard Joel Gonzalez Bonilla for the gold. The Belgian boy has some of the best footwork on the mats, and from the start, looked fast, stylish and dangerous. Even so, Round 1 ended scoreless. In the second, Achab registered on the board with a punch, taking Round 2 1-0. Round 3 offered more action. In a flurry, both men were connecting, but it was Achab who scored with a crescent kick to the head. Bonilla managed to up the score with a turning kick fired on the retreat, 5-2. Soon after, the Spanish

Male

-80kg Category Final

The championship’s last final, was the men’s -80kg division, in which Iranian Mahdi “The Terminator” Khodabakhshi took to the mats against Great Britain’s Damon Sansum. The Iranian is one of the most economical fighters in the sport; with his near-perfect distancing and timing, he makes it look easy. In Round 1 the Iranian scored a point almost immediately, then another, before chopping a kick almost nonchalantly onto the Briton’s head. He continued racking up the points, before Sansum came back with a cut kick. The round ended 7-1. Picking off points like a sniper,

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coach called for a video replay for a head kick, but the screen clearly showed that Achab had blocked: The request was denied. In the last 30 seconds, both lads got really busy, flying across the mats, locked in combat. Bonilla took the scoreboard from 3-7 to 4-7 and then 5-7; the Belgian was briefly floored and in the last few seconds, looked like he was playing for time. But he hung on and the fight ended 6-7, giving Achab the gold. Iran’s Abolfazl Yaghoubiyoubari and Mexico’s Saul Gutierrez won bronzes.

the Iranian relentlessly raised his score, point by point, in Round 2, until Sansum managed to maneuver him to the edge of the area and connect, raising his points to 3 against Khodabakhshi’s 13. In Round 3, Khodabakhshi decided to finish it. He attacked immediately, scoring with a head kick and taking the match 16-3 for a win on point gap. In all, it was a supreme performance by a master of his art and a well-deserved gold for “The Terminator”. Moldova’s Aaron Cook and Germany’s Tahir Guelec were left with bronzes.

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In a wrap-up press conference, WTF President Chungwon Choue called Chelyabinsk 2015 the most successful taekwondo championships ever, citing, in particular, the crowd and the volunteers, and saying he felt “sad” to leave such a “wonderful event.” WTF Secretary General Hoss Rafaty added, “Chelyabinsk has created a new standard for taekwondo events.” The 22nd World Championships wound down after six days of play with a closing ceremony. WTF World Championships are held biannually; the next, the 23rd, takes place in Muju, Korea in 2017.

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2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships Medal Standings Male

WTF World Championships / Chelyabinsk

Female

Rank NOC

G

1 IRI

S

B

Pts. Total

Rank NOC

G

S

B

Pts. Total

3 1

65

1 KOR

3

56

2 RUS 2 3

50

2 TPE

1 1 1

41

3 UZB

1 2

43

3 TUR

1 1 1

40

4 KOR

1 1

42

4 CHN 2

38

5 ESP 1 1

34

5 GBR

1 1

31

6 WTF

1 1

33

6 RUS 2

31

7 TUR

1

33

7 ESP 2

28

8 AZE

1

30

8 FRA 1

26

9 MEX 1

29

9 USA 2

26

10 USA

26

10 CRO 2

25

11 CIV 1

25

11 THA

12 CHN 1

25

12 UKR 1

13 GER 1

25

13 EGY

21

14 FRA

25

14 SRB 1

20

15 TPE

25

15 JPN

19

16 GBR 1

24

16 MEX

17 BLR

22

17 BRA 1

18

18 CAN

22

18 GER

18

19 BRA 1

21

19 CAN

17

20 MDA 1

20

20 GRE 1

16

21 EGY

20

21 COL 1

15

22 THA 1

19

22 HUN 1

15

23 AUS

19

23 AZE

15

24 CRO

19

24 IRI 1

14

25 KAZ

18

25 KAZ

13

26 GRE

18

26 AUS

13

27 POL

18

27 SWE

12

28 SRB

18

28 CIV

11

29 POR

18

29 BLR 1

10

30 PHI

17

31 ITA

17

32 MLI 1

16

33 CHI

16

34 COL

16

35 CUB 2

15

36 GAB 1

14

1

1

24 22

19

Brawn of Championships Balanced with Brain of Academic Symposium Before engaging athletic bodies at the 2015 World Taekwondo Championships, the WTF first engaged intellectual minds as it kicked off a two-day academic seminar on May 9. The 5th International Symposium for Taekwondo Studies got underway at the South Ural State University in Chelyabinsk, Russia under the title, “Leading Toward Taekwondo Excellence.” “I am very proud to say that the WTF is the only International Federation having this kind of academic symposium together with its world championships,” said WTF President Chungwon Choue. South Korea’s Vice Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jeong-deok praised the WTF-sponsored International Association for Taekwondo Research, or IATR, which organized the symposium, and announced that the Korean government would “…continuously take interest in the association’s activities and pledge financial support.” The symposium, arranged for the IATR under the aegis of an organizing committee, was presided over by Dr. Evgeniv Orekhov, rector of the Ural State University of Physical Culture, and featured presentations from 40 academics hailing from nations as distant as Korea, Russia, South Africa and the United States. The 26 academic papers presented were divided into two categories: natural science and social science. Papers in natural science discussed such areas as injury prevention, recovery, warm ups, dietary supplementation and genetics. Social science papers covered disciplines including history, philosophy and psychology. There were also 18 poster presentations, covering areas ranging from poomsae and personal teaching methodologies to taekwondo Olympic medalist profiles and analysis of counter-attack reaction times. In the symposium’s first keynote speech, Dr. Orekhov argued for the development of a consistent international educational context for taekwondo athletes. In the second keynote, fellow Russian Dr. Maksim Karpov made the case for taekwondo as a vehicle to inculcate desirable spiritual and moral characteristics in youth. And in the third, American Dr. James Jones compared taekwondo athletes to various animals in their performance of physical activities, using examples from the natural world including polar bears and lizards. The IATR was created in 2013 and prior to Chelyabinsk, had hosted four symposia. It published its first journal in 2014. Part 3 | Best of the Best

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Moscow Grand Prix Series 1 Kicks off Elite Athletes’ ‘Road to Rio’

MOSCOW 2015

Grand Prix Series 1 Location: Moscow, Russia Dates: Aug. 14-16, 2015

K

orea won three gold medals, Iran took two and Cote d’Ivoire, Turkey and Uzbekistan went home with one each at the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series 1 in Moscow as the sport’s top athletes started their Olympic journeys in earnest. The competition, which ran from Aug. 1416 at the Dinamo Krylatskoye Stadium in the Russian capital, opened the 2015 Grand Prix series, welcoming some 245 athletes from 52 countries, all seeking to add valuable ranking points for Rio 2016. With their organizational nous, the Russians set the bar high for future hosts, drawing smiles with a robot that delivered medals to the winners at the podium, selecting a “Ms Grand Prix” and even offering a

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million rubles to anyone who successfully guessed the winners of all four female and four male Olympic weight categories being contested. The competition opened on a somber note with the gathered athletes, officials and spectators observing a minute’s silence in remembrance of Chong-woo Lee, who passed away in Seoul, aged 86, on August 8. The late grandmaster had been a key pioneer of sportive taekwondo. Then battle commenced. The final of the female -67kg class saw Korea’s Hye-ri Oh facing off against Canada’s Melissa Pagnotta. The match was a close one, with both girls scoring tit-for-tat with body and head kicks. At the end of the third, Oh was ahead but Pagnotta staved off defeat and evened the score to 7-7 in the dying seconds of the match, taking the contest to golden point. Both athletes, superbly conditioned, came out attacking furiously, but it was Oh who scored for Korea with a sickle-sharp turning kick to the body for the gold. Azerbaijan’s Farida Azizova and Egypt’s Seham Elsawalhy took bronzes. The women’s +67kg final, between Turkey’s Nafia Kus (ranked 18th in the world) and China’s Donghua Li (ranked 12th) was a surprise: Most pundits had expected a final showdown between the two eventual bronze medalists, world-ranked number two Gwladys Epangue of France, and

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World Taekwondo GP Moscow

current world champion Bianca Walkden of Great Britain. But Li was not in the slightest bit overawed and dispatched Epangue with a comfortable point difference, while Kus took out Walkden via golden point.

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In the final, Kus drew first blood with a front-leg turning kick to the body; Li returned fire with an arcing ax kick. Then Li went down in a flurry, with what looked like a twisted ankle. As fighting recommenced, Kus looked to take swift advantage. Both fighters showed a high work rate as they fought for the center of the ring. By the final round there was just a one-point difference, but Kus extended her lead as Li started to lose her distancing. The match ended with a convincing 12-5 victory for Kus, but Lee had shown impressive courage in coming back from a bad fall. Walkden and Epangue took bronzes. The men’s +80kg final was a bruising affair with the tank-like Uzbek Dmitriy Shokin, the world-ranked number five, taking on

Russia’s taller and whippier Vladislav Larin. Shokin opening the scoring with a punch but the home-town favorite was unintimidated. Returning fire with a snappy front leg kick, he scored. The match settled down to both men sparring off their front legs, with Shokin varying his attacks with punches and spin kicks and Larin countering with turning kicks off both legs. Shokin settled down and started showing off a bit of showmanship, as the “thwack” of his kicks impacting Larin’s body protector echoed around the stadium. The final result was in little doubt; the match ended with a definitive 9-4 victory to Shokin, who dedicated his victory to Uzbekistan’s upcoming independence day. Larin was more down-to-earth; being kicked by Shokin, he said, was “not

particularly pleasant.” Chol-ho Cho of Korea and Mahama Cho of Great Britain won bronzes. In the female -49kg final, Korea’s So-hui Kim took on China’s Zhaoyi Li. The fight was a tactical one, with both girls seemingly unable to find the distance, but in the end, it was Kim’s superior kick placement that gave her a 3-2 victory despite a late challenge from the Chinese. Turkey’s Rukiye Yildirim and Serbia’s Tijana Bogdanovic shared bronze medals. In the men’s -58kg division, Iran’s Farzan “The Tsunami” Ashourzadeh Fallah, took on Mexico’s Carlos Navarro. The match was almost point for point, until the Iranian pulled ahead in the final round, leading

the Mexican to uncork a down-to-the-wire series of spinning kicks from the very edge of the mat. But it was “The Tsunami” for the victory, taking the final 8-5 for the gold medal after an action-packed and highly entertaining fight. Bronzes went to Germany’s Levent Tuncat and Korea’s Tae-hun Kim. In the men’s -80kg category, Cote d’Ivoire’s Cheick Sallah Cisse fought for the gold with Moldova’s Aaron Cook. Cisse had advanced to the final after his semifinal opponent, the United States’ Steven Lopez, had withdrawn due to injury. As the match got underway, Cisse drew ahead, fighting strongly. Cook – who had KOed Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly in the semifinal with a spectac-

ular head kick that won him the applause of the stadium – looked exhausted. Even so, Cook, with vocal encouragement from the crowd, let fly with a series of the spinning kicks that are his trademark. However, they failed to connect, giving Cisse the match – and the gold medal – 11-4. Coulibaly and Lopez took the bronzes. In the female -57kg final, Iran’s Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin, ranked 40th in the world, was behind in the entire match, seemingly unable to penetrate the cagey defense of Great Britain’s Jade Jones, the world-ranked number two, and was behind 3:0. But in the last seconds of the third round, the Iranian connected with a head kick for three points that took the match to golden point. In the

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MOSCOW 2015

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World Taekwondo GP Moscow

sudden-death round, Alizadeh Zenoorin kept her cool and scored to take the match and the gold medal. Jones appeared devastated at losing a match she had controlled for so long. Egypt’s Hedaya Malak and Croatia’s Martina Zubcic shared bronze medals. The final of the men’s -68kg division was a Korean-Korean affair, with Hun Kim taking on compatriot and team mate Dae-hoon Lee. Although both fighters know each other inside out, they delivered a fine display of technical taekwondo. Kim, ranked 16th in the world, was ahead in the first round 7-1, but Lee, ranked third, reduced the deficit to 8-7 in the second round. At the end of the third, the two were tied at 12-12. In the golden point round, both athletes were landing round kicks to the body that drew gasps from the audience, but it was Kim who registered on the PSS taking a deserved victory: He had been ahead for most of the game. Bronzes went to Russia’s Maksim Khramtcov and Iran’s Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari. In a special addition to the Grand Prix, Egypt’s Hedaya Malak, bronze medalist at -57kg, was named “Ms Grand Prix” and presented with a bouquet. Alas, the “million rubles” prize – announced during a press conference at Itar-Tass by Russian Taekwondo Union President Anatoly Terekhov – went unclaimed. Nobody correctly guessed all eight gold medalists, so a consolation prize of 100,000 rubles was offered to whoever guessed the highest number of winners. That was won by one of the sport’s top pundits - WTF TV Commentator Mike McKenzie of GB’s Quest Taekwondo. The Grand Prix ended in festive style as the Russian Taekwondo Union hosted all athletes and officals to a party in Bunker-42, a remarkable night club set deep under Moscow streets in Stalin’s former nuclear shelter!

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Grand Prix Series 2 Location: Samsun, Turkey Dates: Sept. 18-20, 2015

Samsun 2015

T

urkey’s Black Sea coast is famed for its storied legends and heroic sagas, and from Sept. 18-20, 2015, the WTF brought its own brand of legendary action to the seaside resort of Samsun with the second Grand Prix of the year. The event featured three days of combat as 232 of the world’s top taekwondo fighters from 50 countries competed at the Yasar Dogu Spor Salonu arena. Of the eight gold medals up for grabs, Russia won two, while China, Great Britain, Iran, Korea, Portugal and the United States each took one. And – as if to reinforce that there is nothing certain in the sport of taek-

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wondo – not a single gold medal winner from the Moscow Series 1 Grand Prix was able to repeat his/her feat in Samsun. In the women’s -67kg category final, Anastasia Baryshnikova took on China’s Hua Zhang. The Russian took an early one point lead then added another as she found her distance, winning the first round 2-0. Round two started faster with the Russian girl picking off her opponent with two more fast points, varying her front-leg attacks with a rear-leg round kick. Zhang managed to claw back two points, but the round ended 5-2 to Baryshnikova. The third started with both girls wielding their front

legs; the Chinese girl scored again, with a round kick fired from the clinch. With Zhang on the attack, the Russian displayed some lively circular foot work to keep out of her firing range. At the end Zhang was using every weapon and almost chasing her opponent round the ring, but Baryshnikova’s work rate early in the match paid off: She hung on for a 5-3 victory. Bronzes went to Turkey’s Nur Tatar and Irem Yaman. In the women’s +67kg division, Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden faced Team USA’s Jackie Galloway. Both adopted side-on, defensive stances and kept at long distance, firing

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World Taekwondo GP Samun

Taekwondo’s Elite Fight ‘Black Sea Battle’ as Samsun, Turkey Hosts Grand Prix Series 2

ineffectual kicks. The referee demanded action, but the round ended with the board empty. In round two, Walkden opened the scoring with a well-timed punch that caught the American girl as she was advancing, and held on to the lead, 1-0. Round 3 saw more action. Galloway evened things in a flurry and as the final seconds counted down, both coaches were yelling instructions to their fighters. To no avail: the match went to golden point. Walkden went straight on the offensive, delivering stabbing side kicks. Her coach called for a head kick: no score. Combat restarted – and it was Galloway who took point, match and gold. Macedonia’s Petra Matiajesevic and Croatia’s Iva Rados won bronzes. The highest-scoring fight of the evening was the final of the men’s +80kg category, where Korea’s Chol-ho Jo took on Iran’s Sajjad Mardani. Neither player felt the need to feel each other out: Both opened the scoring with helmet-jarring head kicks. But it was the Korean who looked both more active and dangerous, fighting forward with a machine-gun array of kicks. There was a brief freeze – an edge-of-mat war of nerves, with the Iranian trying to force the Korean back – before both men sprung back into high-kicking action. The round ended 6-3 to Jo. In the second, Jo - proving very, very quick for a heavyweight – raised the score to 7-3, then added three more points; he briefly exulted, drawing cheers from an impressed crowd. His kicks were scorching: One connected to the Iranian’s PSS with a thwack that echoed across the arena. Round 2 finished 12-4 to Jo. In the third, the Korean stole yet another point with a front leg side kick. Mardani was finally getting back into the game, winning points with punches and body kicks – but being so far behind in the scoring, he had left things late. An arcing crescent kick would have beheaded Jo if it had landed, but the Korean ducked under. The match ended 14-8 to Jo; a convincing victory against such a professional opponent. Dmitriy Shokin of Uzbekistan and Volker Wodzich of Germany settled for the bronzes. The women’s -48 finals pitched China’s double Olympic medalist Jingyu Wu against Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit. A lot of female finals start with cautious foot fencing and jabbing, but the two Asian

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but the Chinese Olympian continued to add points. The match was halted when Wu hit 24, taking the final on 12- point difference. It was a masterly performance by Wu - winning a Grand Prix final in such a remarkable manner against such a quality opponent. In the men’s -58kg final, Levent Tuncat of Germany took on Rui Braganca of Portugal. Tuncat is one of the most exciting fighters on the circuit, with an aggressive, spinning style; Braganca, on the other hand, is a mas-

In Round 3, Tuncat seemed frustrated at not being able to get past Braganca’s front leg, held at the high chamber and constantly stabbing out with side kicks, twist kicks and push kicks. Going for a big score, a flashing spin heel kick from the German failed to connect by a whisker - then a kyunggo took the Portuguese fighter up to four points. Throwing caution to the winds, both men upped their game: A flurry of spins ended 5-3 to Braganca. Now the match was

Guzman won bronzes. The final of the male -80kg class saw Mahdi Khohabakhshi of Iran squaring off against Cheick Salleh Cisse of Cote d’Ivoire. The Iranian is possibly the most dominant fighter in taekwondo and a superstar in Iran, a powerhouse of the sport, while Cisse had just arrived in Samsun the same day, having competed in the African Games. The two competitors stalked onto the mats – where Cisse stunned the crowd by with-

once. The first round ended with the kind of score more commonly seen at the end of a match: 12-5. Round 2’s action recommenced with both girls showcasing an awesome work rate; Wu looked particularly sharp, landing a textbook ax kick squarely on the Thai athlete’s face. Racking up the points, Wu took the score up to 18-8. Wongpattanakit picked up a point in a flurry keeping her in the game – she was in danger of going out on 12-point difference. The Thai coach appealed a headshot but there was no score, leaving the round to conclude at 18-9. Round 3 looked like a rerun of Round 1, with both girls again unleashing machine-gun kicks and with the Thai again dominating the center of the mats while Wu danced round the perimeter, hitting, running and taking the score to 20-9. The Thai pulled her score up to 12 with a headshot

ter of the front-leg counterattack. Round 1 started with both lads competing for the middle of the ring with the crowd solidly behind Tuncat - a German of Turkish ancestry. Braganca looked wickedly fast as he played his front leg game, opening the scoring with a two-point lead before the German returned fire with a spinning back kick for three points. Round 1 ended 3-2 to Tuncat. As action got underway in the second, Braganca soon levelled it to 3-3 then the action slowed down: Both men tried to feint and psyche each other out, firing off front leg twisting kicks to the body protector - a rarely seen technique - in a war of nerves. Even so, camera close-ups showed both men grinning at each other, apparently enjoying the fight, a rarity with these Grand Prix events now being such important waystations on each athlete’s personal road to Rio.

down to 30 seconds. Employing some crafty footwork, Tuncat maneuvered his opponent to the edge of the mats where he unleashed a series of spinning back and heel kicks – whirling both clockwise and counterclockwise, an extraordinary feat of athleticism. Braganca, fighting on the very edge of the field of play, responded in kind with a storm of spinning kicks himself. The crowd gasped, but this edge-of-mat whirlwind ended as both players’ coaches appealed for head kicks. It was the Portugese who won the replay, taking the score to 8-4. With seven short seconds left on the clock, Tuncent went airborne, spinning across the mats and forcing Braganca out of the area, but time was up: The buzzer sounded, leaving the final score at 8-4 - giving Braganca the win and the gold. China’s Shuai Zhao and Aregentina’s Lucas

drawing from the competition. The unexpected pullout granted the Iranian master kicker probably his easiest gold medal ever. Iran’s Masoud Hajizavareh and Italy’s Roberto Botta shared bronzes. In the finals of the female -57kg category, Great Britain’s Jade Jones squared off against Chinese Taipei’s Yun-wen Huang. The match started with Jones – who had been looking razor-sharp in the preliminaries and semis – fighting forward and pressuring the Chinese girl backward, forcing her to employ some evasive footwork. Jones drew first blood with a body kick, varying her front leg attack both high and low. She grabbed another point during a scrappy edge of mats exchange; it was deducted for holding, but she soon racked up another point, ending the round 2-0. In Round 2, both girls battled for the center of the mats,

World Taekwondo GP Samun

Amazons commenced battle at Samsun 2015 a killer pace. The Thai held center ring while Wu, looking relaxed but not standing still for a second, danced around the perimeter of the octagon, constantly applying her foot to her opponent’s head. The Thai girl returned fire in kind, aiming high. The ferocity of the combat may be judged from the fact that Wongpattanakit visited the mat twice, Wu

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mats, taking the board to 6-4. Thus far, it had been the Mexican setting the tempo, but now Denisenko switched up a gear: A picture-perfect step side kick that staggered Gutierrez won him another point, 5-6, then he levelled it to six points each. With his target radar now locked on, Denisenko impacted with a round kick to the head, putting him ahead 9-6. Gutierrez was warned for

other point, but the match was in its dying seconds. Gutierrez’s coach clawed back some breathing space by appealing; it was rejected. Three seconds now remained on the clock. Gutierrez hurtled forward, backing Denisenko out of the ring for a point. Then, as combat restarted and Gutierrez lunged into a last-ditch charge, the buzzer sounded, delivering a 12-11 victory to the

ies with jab kicks, but it was the Mexican who landed first. The score rose in Gutierrez’s favor when, in the closing seconds, he landed a hooking heel kick to the back of the Russian’s head. Denisenko shot back with a wicked combination – a mid-level round kick and a second round kick off the other leg to the head – bringing the scoreboard to 4-5 to the Mexican. Round 2 started with both men looking more aggressive, Denisenko firing his patented one-two, front leg-back leg round kick serial attack. The Russian went for an ax kick; Gutierrez came forward; and Denisenko landed on the

holding, giving Denisenko a 10-6 point lead at the end of the second. At the opening of the third, Gutierrez launched a crafty kick to the body then hooked his heel up to the Russian’s face in a fine display of timing and dexterity, bringing the board to 9-10. But Denisenko was not about to relinquish his lead and scored again, 11-9. In a clinch, he landed a counter kick for 12 points and the Russian supporters - sniffing victory - began roaring. Densinko was now fully in game-on mode, dropping his opponent with a high side kick. With just 15 seconds remaining, the Mexican upped his attack, winning an-

Russian. Iran’s Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari and Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee went home with bronzes. Any on-mat enmities were forgotten as the athletes finished the Grand Prix with a party at a bar/club overlooking the Black Sea; merriment ran well into the wee hours. The following day, the bar owner expressed his delight; he had never had such a large and friendly crowd of foreign clients in his venue before, he said. That’s taekwondo.

World Taekwondo GP Samun

in tight, front-leg exchanges with Jones extending her lead with a side kick to the torso. Another Jones side kick connected. It failed to score on the PSS, but won her a point as it dumped Huang on the deck. After grabbing another point, the British girl ended the second round comfortably ahead, 5-0. Huang came out aggressively in the third, trying to force Jones on her back leg and off the mats, but Jones was not intimidated, replying with head and body shots, racking up another point with yet another strong side kick to the body. Huang finally found an angle that bypassed Jones’ defense during a flurry on the edge of the mats, taking the board to 6-1, then 6-2. The Chinese girl gamely unleashed head shots and hammering side kicks, but Jones was unwilling to give up ground, and the fight went to close quarters. A beautifully timed side push kick dropped Huang, but did not score. Huang pressured Jones out of the area, taking her score to three points, but Jones had timed things perfectly, taking the match and the gold with a comfortable 6-3 victory. Great Britain’s Rachelle Booth and Sweden’s Nikita Glasinovic had to settle for

bronzes in the category. In the finals of the men’s -68kg category, Saul Gutierrez of Mexico did battle with Russia’s Alexey Denisenko. The action started with Denisenko – one of the most exciting athletes on the circuit - adopting a low, give-no-ground stance while Gutierrez danced on the balls of his feet. Both men stabbed at each other’s bod-

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anchester Delivers a Classic Grand Prix at 2015’s Series 3 Grand Prix Series 3 Location: Manchester, UK Dates: Oct. 16-18, 2015

Manchester 2015

M

anchester is a city famed for both industry and sport, and for the WTF’s Grand Prix Series 3, it did exactly what an industrial expert would expect: It took a successful product, made a minimum of alterations and delivered a brilliant sporting spectacle. A total of 237 athletes from 56 countries competed for top honors at the event, which ran over three days, from October 16-18. At the conclusion of the competition, China was the only country to capture two golds, while France, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Korea, Tunisia and Uzbekistan all took home one each. Manchester is the home base of Great

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Britain’s taekwondo team, and the GP venue, the Manchester Regional Arena, stands in the shadow of the famous Manchester City football stadium. Inside the darkened hall, matches took place on an illuminated center ring, with rolling LED ad boards showcasing sponsor brands, the WTF Grand Prix slogan “Here Come the Champions” and the Olympic battle cry “Every Road to Rio.” Throbbing music, swirling spotlights and the thunderous “voice of taekwondo” - ring-announcer Andy Ashworth, himself a Manchester native – combined to generate an explosive atmosphere. This combination of elements made the British city, which had hosted the first-ev-

er taekwondo Grand Prix event in 2014, a benchmark host for future GPs. In the finals of the men’s -68kg, Abolfazl “Mr Unpredictable” Yaghoubijouybari of Iran - who had been fighting with wicked venom and accuracy all day, and who had earlier defeated taekwondo legend Servet Tazegul in an awesome golden-point match – took on Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee, who had previously dispatched teammate Hun Kim in the semifinal. Lee started the match firing off a barrage of kicks, but it was the Iranian who found the range and took an early two-point lead. The Korean shot back, but Yaghoubijouybari soon regained his advantage with a perfectly placed punch,

ending the round 3-1. In the second, Lee regained his composure. In a masterly display of ring control, he maneuvered his opponent to the edge of the mats and landed a head shot, putting him ahead. From then on, the match went Lee’s way, all the way. Yaghoubijouybari almost got back into the game with a spin kick, but Lee was offering the crowd a cool-headed display of varied technique, scoring to both body and head. The fight ended 7-16 to the Korean, whose relaxed demolition of the Iranian showed why he was named the WTF’s “Male Player of the Year” in 2014. Servet Tazegul of Turkey and Hun Kim of Korea won bronzes.

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ter front-leg and fist fighter, while the leggy Cuban is a power kicker with a significant height advantage. Both heavyweights came out fighting, launching kicks landing with shock impact, with the Cuban looking more flamboyant. But the PSS was not registering, and the round ended scoreless. In Round 2, Shokin took center ring and gave no ground to Castillo, who was trying to land head kicks. Castillo scored the first point, taking the second round 1-0. In the third, The Uzbek chased the Cuban out of the ring for a penalty, but was not landing any kicks. Then, in virtually the last second, the Cuban went down for another penalty, evening the score to 1-1. So it was golden point. At the outset, the Uzbek suffered a penalty for turning his back against one of the Cuban’s onslaughts. Castillo seemed to be landing body kicks, but the PSS was not registering. Shokin landed a punch – yet again, no score. The two men fought into close range then Shokin unleashed another punch and that was it: a hard-fought gold for the Uzbek. Arman-Marshall Silla of Belarus and

Omid Amidi of Iran had to be satisfied with bronzes. In the finals of the female –49kg division, China’s Jingyu Wu - who WTF TV Commentator Mike McKenzie dubs “pound-forpound, the most stylish female athlete out there” - squared off with Chanatip Sonkham of Thailand. Round 1 started with both girls foot fencing with range-finding kicks. After a flurry, the Thai coach requested a video replay for a head kick; it was denied. Wu drew first blood with a jump spin back kick to the body, followed shortly afterwards with a body kick, then a round kick to the head delivered another three points. Round 1 ended 7-0 to Wu. Round 2 started with the Thai applying forward pressure and Wu backpedaling around the mats – but scoring consistently on Sonkham while relying on her footwork to carry her out of the Thai’s range. Picking off her opponent with sniper-like accuracy, Wu took the board to 8-0, 9-0, 10-0, 11-0 and finally 12-0. There was no third round: The contest finished on point difference. The display of utter supe-

points in the last seconds of the round with a series of round kicks. Round 2 ended 3-6. In the final round, Muhammad visited the mats while the scoreboard rose to 7-3. The Briton uncorked a series of spinning attacks and raised his score to 5-8, but the Tunisian landed a head kick. Muhammad attacked forward and picked up a penalty but the Tunisian scored with yet another head kick. The final score was 16-6, and victory for Oueslati. Khodabakhshi of Iran and Cisse of Cote

Terminator” Khodabakhshi, who injured his ankle in their match, while Oueslati had defeated African favorite Cheick Sallah Cisse of Cote d’Ivoire in an action-packed, but penalty laden, match. Round 1 opened in cagey style with both lads adopting similar rear-weighted, backward-leaning stances. In an exchange of turning kicks, Oueslati scored first, then again with a whippy front-leg body kick. The round ended 2-0 to the Tunisian. In Round 2, Muhammad tried to land his ax kick, but was unable to overcome the height disadvantage. Fighting forward, he forced his opponent out of the area, but the Tunisian, after slowly regaining his feet, accelerated the action and extended his lead to 3-0, 4-0 then 5-0. Finally, Muhammad - a master of combination attacks –found his distance and seized three

d’Ivoire both won bronzes. The final of the female -57kg category was what the Manchester crowd had been waiting for: It pitted Eva Calvo Gomez of Spain, the world number two, against hometown favorite Jade Jones of GB – the latest clash in one of taekwondo’s fiercest rivalries. Action started at a fast pace in a back-and-forth contest with both athletes wielding front leg kicks, but with neither finding the range; the round ended 0-0. At the start of Round 2, Calvo Gomez, backed onto the edge of the mats, connected first for a one-point lead. Then a round kick to Jones’ head put the Spanish athlete 4-0 up. Jones clawed back a single point with a strike to the torso, but things were looking grim for the hometown girl until - at the start of a remarkable series, Jones equalized

with one of her patented round kicks to the head. Jones is known as a headhunter, but nobody expected her to land another one just seconds later and - as the crowd erupted into cheers - yet another, giving her a 10-4 lead at the end of the second. Round 3 opened with heavy combat; both girls hit the deck in a tangle of limbs. After action restarted, a side kick to the Spanish girl’s torso gave Jones anther point, 11-4. Then yet another head shot took the board up to 14-4 as the audience stamped and roared. In the last 30 seconds, Calvo Gomez was looking desperate, as Jones called all the shots. The match ended with a decisive 14-4 victory for the 2012 Olympic champ, who, having seized her second successive Grand Prix gold, is looking razor sharp. Mayu Hamada of Japan and Nikita Glasinovic of Sweden went home with bronzes. There was another hometown favorite in the female +67kg final, as Jones’ roommate, Bianca “Queen Bee” Walkden of GB, faced off against Shuyin Zheng of China. Round 1 started with Walkden looking livelier, but with the taller Zhang dominating center ring. Both girls felt each other out with probing kicks; the round ended 0-0. The second started with the Chinese girl looking busier and Walkden looking pained after a leg clash. Zheng drew first blood with a body kick, ending Round 2 one point up. Round 3 started with a higher work rate from both fighters but this time it was Walkden who was pressuring Zheng onto the back foot and onto the edge of the area. With just over 30 seconds on the clock, Walkden connected with a body kick, equalizing to 1-1. The crowd stamped in the stands, creating a rolling thunder as the third ended – taking the fight to golden point for the gold medal. In extra time, Zheng connected with a head kick. Almost unbelieving, the Chinese athlete dropped to her knees and thrust her arms into the air, exulting in a victory against a fighter

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World Taekwondo GP Manchester

The female -67kg final pitted Nur “The Amazon” Tartar of Turkey against Haby “The Abigator” Niare of France. Both girls started at a fast pace, firing head shots with real intent but failing to score. The match then settled down to a cagier tactical game, with the first round ending 0-0. In Round 2 Niare – drew first blood with a turning kick to the body. Then she landed the same technique again, ending Round 2 two points up. In the third, Tatar had to increase her work rate, but it was Niare who added to her score – landing yet another turning kick after evading a spin kick from the Turk. Tatar launched an all-out offensive but had left it too late as the seconds ticked away. Although she clawed back a point in the final seconds it was “The Abigator” who took match and gold, 3-1. Chia-chia Chuang of Chinese Taipei and Hye-ri Oh of Korea took bronzes. In the male +80kg final, Dmitriy Shokin of Uzbekistan did battle with Rafael Castillo of Cuba. This was a clash of styles as much as a clash of men: The powerful Uzbek is a mas-

riority over world-class opposition makes the Chinese girl look unassailable; she must surely be an odds-on favorite for her third Olympic gold in Rio. Tijana Bogdanovic of Serbia and Azerbaijan’s Patimat Abakarova went home with bronzes. The finals of the men’s -80kg pitted GB’s Lutalo Muhammad against Ousamma Oueslati of Tunisia. Muhammad had earlier overcome perennial favorite and world-ranked number one Mahdi “The

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backed by a very vocal crowd. Turkey’s Nafia “The Amazon” Kus and Serbia’s Milica Mandic won bronze medals. In the male -58kg division, Nursultan Mamayev of Kazakhstan won a ticket to the final when Tae-hun Kim of Korea was unable to take part in his semifinal match due to injury. That put him into the last match against Jesus Tortosa Cabrera of Spain. In Round 1, the Spaniard won an early one-point lead with a stabbing leg jab, but the Kazakh shot back with a thwacking round kick to the torso - accompanied by a howling kihap. In the final seconds, both unleashed a series of kicks, taking successive points and the round ended 2-2. In

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Round 2 both men fired front-leg side and round kicks before the Kazakh scored – but the Spaniard equalized to 3-3. This was a match between a very, very closely matched pair. Round 3 started with both connecting but neither scoring, but with the Kazakh looking fresher and lighter on his feet. He caught his opponent again with a back leg round kick – and yet again Tortosa Cabrera equalized! The Spanish athlete then lost a point for a shin block - and won it back with a punch. Thus ended the round – and it went to golden point. The Spaniard was firing a barrage of front leg kicks but in a near-perfect display of timing, Mamayev unleashed a rear-leg round kick for point,

match and gold. Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah of Iran and Korea’s Tae-hun Kim took bronzes. One special guest at the event was none other than the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Paul Murphy, who appeared in full ceremonial regalia. “It’s marvelous,” an impressed Murphy said of the event. “Manchester is showing the way in terms of world sports!” And not just sports. After the tournament had concluded, various attendees took advantage of Manchester’s famous night life - with the result that different groups bumped into each other at different downtown venues at different stages of what proved to be a long and merry evening.

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Manchester Magic: Merging Sport and Entertainment for the Ultimate Event

The two men behind the organizational benchmark of the Grand Prix circuit tell us how it is done ...

Manchester is renowned as one of the United Kingdom’s premier cities of sport, famed for its hometown Premier League powerhouses, Manchester United and Manchester City. It is also the city which hosted the very first World Taekwondo Grand Prix in 2013, and has since held two more, the most recent being the Grand Prix Series 3. Everybody who has attended one of the

audiences and subsequently, regular commercial sponsorship partners; one tends to follow the other.” There has been progress: The Manchester 2015 GP is being broadcast to more than 90 countries. Even so, when it comes to fully luring spectators and sponsors, “we have a way to go,” Leafe conceded. The GP must present a packaged product that can showcases the sport of tae-

arena all play a part: “You get a better atmosphere with a lower ceiling,” Ashworth said. “The noise reverberates around.” And the arena should be in an appropriate city. “The venue must not be in the middle of nowhere, so Manchester is ideal for it,” Ashworth said. “A Taekwondo GP would be lost a bit in London, because there is so much going on in the capital and taekwon-

World Taekwondo GP Manchester

Manchester GPs – be they spectators or coaches, WTF officials or TV technicians – agrees that the Manchester events not only set the original template, they also represent the gold standard of GPs. The two men behind the Manchester triumphs are Ian Leafe, Event Manager for GB Taekwondo and Vice Chairman of the WTF Games Committee, and his production manager, Andy Ashworth, a producer and presenter with his own company, event-management firm Red Alligator Group. Leafe recalls the mission statement for the first GP in 2013. “There were discussions with the WTF about creating a flagship series of events similar to what other sports do very successfully to showcase the ‘best of the best:’ this had been an aspiration of WTF President Chungwon Choue for some time,” he said. “The original two founding principles were to attract large broadcast

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kwondo in a format entertaining enough to grab the attention of broadcasters, sponsors and audiences. “We want to produce a nightly, exiting TV show that has the beauty of the core sport and a level of entertainment and sports presentation wrapped around it that TV audiences would find engaging,” Leafe said. “What I am trying to do is to create ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ with violence!” What, then, are the key components of successful presentation and hosting?

do is still a fringe sport in this country.” Given the aim of upgrading media pick-up, it is also essential that the city chosen is home to a significant population of media professionals. “One of the original ideas was to take the GP to the media and that is one of the reasons why we are here in Manchester: The BBC in Salford are just a couple of miles away,” said Leafe. “They are showing the GP every night and they have been a partner in trying to guide us in the sport’s presentation.”

The first item on the checklist is selecting an appropriate arena. “You have to pick a venue that is right for the event, and that may seem like a silly thing to say, but it is pointless selecting an arena for 20,000 people if, realistically, you are only going to have 1,000 people in the place,” said Ashworth. “Nobody likes to see empty seats, and I don’t like to see them as a presenter.” Floor space and even height of the

Inside the venue, both audio and visual elements need to be fully leveraged - notably lighting, music and voiceover. “With the budget we have got, we try to get the best out of the kit, so it Is important to have a lighting engineer on site,” said Ashworth. “We have a guy that spends two days programming the lighting; our lighting engineer has worked with almost every band going.”

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Under Ashworth’s direction, music, selected to instill emotion, is varied. Dramatic music is used for the athletes’ entrance; light-hearted, upbeat music is played during the breaks in the matches so that “the kids in the stands are engaged,” in Ashworth’s words; and for the drama of the semifinals and finals, up-tempo music booms out. “A number of sporting events don’t use music, but it makes people feel good, and if it is pumping, it makes them excited,” Ashworth said. “And if you put on a bit of a tongue-in-cheek piece, it puts a smile on their faces. Sport is entertainment: If you lose sight of that, you lose your crowd.” Light and sound are synchronized for maximum impact. “For the video replays, we purchased a bit of music – a heartbeat – and we pulse the lights on red,” Ashworth said. “It makes the most of the assets we have on-site.”

He also varies his tone of voice. “When we do video replays, my voice drops so by the third day, when I say it, everyone goes, ‘video replay’ in a low voice,” Ashworth said. “It’s a bit of fun!” All these elements need to combine so that there is never a dull moment. “Everything we do with the GP has a joined-up approach in terms of show and sport merging, second-by-second,” said Leafe. “Something is going on, there is something to see all the time, even between the round breaks and between the matches, and we make the most of the key exiting moments – the video replay, the golden points. It is not rocket science!” When it comes to presenting action, one guiding principal is simple: “TV audiences do not want to see back-of-house operations,” Leafe said. Manchester’s field-of-play layout and camera positioning were heavily based on BBC suggestions. “The core principle was for it to be ‘clean’ as the standard taekwondo competition has

Sponsor brand exposure is a key issue. “Various ideas were tried and rejected: In year one, we had chasing logos and fancy little things going on,” said Ashworth. “The feedback from BBC was they wanted static logos; scrolling, not moving around.” In a miniature version of a Premier League football field, standing electronic ad boards were set up around the periphery of the center ring: This is considered best-of-breed positioning to showcase sponsor logos without being obtrusive. Sponsor messages also run across the LED screens between the athlete entrances. Spectator engagement in Manchester was aimed largely at youth, with an area beside the stands set-up for visitors to punch dummies and kick paddles. This was designed for the local schools, which bought children in to attend the event. “GB Taekwondo has got merchandize across from the kids area, and you can’t pass there without them queuing up to have a go,” Ashworth said. “They can show off in front of their peer group and the coach can say, ‘You have good technique,’ and that - implanted in the brain of a young child - might make them think, ‘I can do this.’” For a minority sport this is important, Ashworth maintains. “Everyone plays football everywhere, but adults have to have a bit more commitment to take kids to a taekwondo class,” he said. “Anything that gets them to consider the sport of taekwondo cannot be a bad thing.”

World Taekwondo GP Manchester

Ashworth himself is a key segment of the production: As the GP MC with a mike, he is – literally – the “voice of taekwondo.” Voiceover is critical, given that many audience members may be unfamiliar with WTF rules. Ashworth delivers a “dummies’ guide” to taekwondo, repeating key messages. “I have to put myself into the shoes of somebody who knows nothing about taekwondo,” he said. “I probably repeat the message, ‘If you are new to taekwondo …’ again and again. The second time they will take it in, by the third time, they start to get it and feel more involved.”

the reputation of being a bit cluttered, with a lot of people walking around, somewhat like a market: you are not quite sure where the action ends and the crowd starts,” Leafe said. “We placed the coaches directly behind the LED boards so that the view from the camera was the athletes, the (sponsor) branding, the coaches and the audience with nothing in between to spoil that magic view. That’s the ‘money shot.’”

Leafe reckons that the GP is an excellent opportunity to market taekwondo to the younger generation. “Look at any movie or cartoon, the kids of today are the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ generation and we have to find a way to tap into that,” he said. One issue with the GP Series now is that the format is not fully consistent from country to country. “With any international event series in different countries, the level of consistency and quality is going to vary,” Leafe said. “But actually, most of the time it is not about the budget or the skill sets, it is actually that there is no coordination from one event to the next, so we get different layouts, different fields of play and different priorities.” One challenge the WTF now faces with the GP Series is to create a format that will look, sound and operate the same wherever it takes place. “I think we have the blueprint, and over the last three years and at the various versions of the GP in Manchester and overseas, we have seen a lot of innovative ideas,” Leafe said. “The issue now is creating a model that can be replicated around the world.” But why would a city or Member National Association want to go to all the trouble and the expense of putting on a GP? The answer is that this investment will upgrade the local taekwondo talent pool because there really is such a thing as “home town advantage.” “There has been 25 percent uplift from the (local) GP in results, compared to if it is abroad,” said Ashworth. “Of course, it does not always work, but we are talking about an average: the London 2012 Olympics proved a lot about home advantage.”

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Grand Prix Final Location: Mexico City, Mexico Dates: Dec. 5-6, 2015

Mexico 2015

World Taekwondo GP Mexico

At 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Mexico City, 48 Players Earn Slots for Rio 2016

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fter two days of high-octane, highaltitude competition at the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix final in Mexico City, Mexico on Dec. 5-6, 2015, the sport’s top 48 taekwondo athletes, hailing from 26 different countries, had won quota places for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. Eight Olympic weight categories, four male and four female, were contested on Dec. 5-6, 2015. Two gold medals were won by both China and Korea, while Egypt, France, Great Britain and Iran won one gold each, Besides their medals, the gold medalists each took home US$6,000 in prize money and a local gift: A Mexican sombrero. At the Sala de Armas – the Olympic fencing venue in the Magdalena Mixihuca Sports Complex - the fitness of the fighters was tested by Mexico City’s altitude. And given the Olympic slots that were at stake, fighting was particularly fierce, for only the leading six out of eight fighters in each category would win their NOC a berth in Rio.

When the smoke cleared and rankings were computed, Korea led the pack with five Rio berths, followed by France with four. Great Britain, Iran, Mexico and Russia each earned three places. Belgium, China, Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Turkey each won two slots. Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Japan, Moldova, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, Thailand, the United States and Uzbekistan each won one place. In the female -49kg category, Chinese double Olympic gold medalist Jingyu Wu faced off against France’s Yasmina Aziez for the gold. The French girl had the height advantage, but Wu is possibly the most dominant female fighter in taekwondo. Aziez seized the first point before Wu equalized in a flurry then scored another to end the first round 2-1. In the second, Wu extended her lead to 4-1. Her perfectly calibrated kicks are so fast, flicky and well-timed it is sometimes

difficult to see how she scores, while her timing is so good she seems to be a step ahead of her opponents. In the third, Wu, fighting with perfect composure landed a punch, raising her score to 5-1, then 6-1. Aziez came back in the dying seconds, taking the board to 4-6, but it was a convincing win for Wu. Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit beat Mexico’s Itzel Manjarrez 3-2 for the bronze. In the female -49kg category,China’s Jingyu Wu, Croatia’s Lucija Zaninovic, France’s Yasmina Aziez, Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit, Brazil’s Iris Tang Sing and Korea’s So-hui Kim won quota places for Rio. There was everything to fight for in the highly competitive male -80kg category, as the world’s number one, Mahdi “The Terminator” Khodabakhshi, was sidelined with an ankle injury sustained at the Manchester Grand Prix Series 3 - leaving Moldova’s Aaron Cook to do battle with Great Britain’s Lutalo Muhammad for the gold.

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In the category, Iran’s Mahdi Khodabakhshi, Moldova’s Aaron Cook, Great Britain’s Lutalo Muhammad, Russia’s Albert Gaun, Germany’s Tahir Guelec, and Cote d’Ivoire’s Cheick Sallah Cisse won Olympic slots for their respective NOCs. In the female -67kg category final, France’s Haby Niare took on Turkey’s Nur Tatar. Niare was already through to Rio on ranking points, but fought in Mexico for the sheer joy of the sport. Despite some fierce flurries, the kicks were not registering, and the first round ended 0-0. So did the second. The French girl had been looking more relaxed, powerful and active and finally won a single point. In the last 10 seconds, Tatar launched an all-out assault, but Niare held her at bay, winning the gold, 1-0. Sporting a huge grin, she danced across the mat in a spontaneous exhibition of delight. China’s Hua Zhang beat Russia’s Anastasia Baryshnikova 4-1 for bronze. In the category, France’s Haby Niare, Sweden’s Elin Johansson, Chinese Taipei’s Chia Chia Chuang, Korea’s Hye-ri Oh, Russia’s Anastasia Baryshnikova and Turkey’s Nur Tatar won Rio quota places. In the male -58kg category, Iran’s Farzan “The Tsunami” Ashourzadeh Fallah battled

empty at the end of the first. In the second, Mardani tried a pair of powerful rear-leg turning kicks and scored to the body. In return, the Frenchman got flamboyant, trying to land arcing ax kicks and a reverse turning kick, but the round ended 1-0 to the Iranian. Seconds into the third, with both men spinning in a close-range exchange, N’Diaye clouted Mardani in the head with his elbow. The Iranian collapsed to the mats, and was removed for medical attention. N’Diaye was disqualified - leaving him with silver and Mardani with gold. In the bronze-medal shootout, Uzbekistan’s Jasur Baykuziyev beat Gabon’s Anthony Obame, 4-3 in a torrid match. In the category, Uzbekistan’s Dmitriy Shokin, Azerbaijan’s Radik Isaev, Iran’s Sajjad Mardani, Gabon’s Anthony Obame, France’s M’Bar N’Diaye and Korea’s Dongmin Cha won Rio quota places. In the final of the female +67kg, Mexico’s Maria Espinoza – a huge favorite with the vocal local crowd – went into battle against China’s Shuyin Zheng. Espinoza was giving away almost a head in height difference to Zheng, but looked unintimidated, dancing around the Chinese girl, trying to distract

her with hand fakes. Zheng tried to keep Espinoza at distance with flicking kicks and Round 1 ended 0-0. After a series of Mexican waves through the crowd, the second got underway with Zheng firing head shots, but failing to connect. Things heated up as Espinoza closed the range and landed her trademark punch, bringing the crowd to their feet. The round ended 1-0 to Espinoza. In the third, the Mexican tried to get inside

Zheng’s long legs to clinch, while firing a few conservative kicks of her own. As the last 30 seconds counted down, the audience went ballistic – then Zheng appeared to connect with a spinning back kick to the face. She jumped with delight, but it went to the video review jury. The points were granted, putting Zheng in the lead. As the final seconds counted down, a desperate Espinoza uncorked a series of reverse turning

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World Taekwondo GP Mexico

It was a match with historic ramifications, for British Olympic selectors’ decision to choose Muhammad over Cook for the London 2012 Games had prompted Cook to depart Team GB. Cook, the crowd favorite, got down to business landing a body kick against the much taller Muhammad for a point but Muhammad scored back with a classic Cook-style technique – a jump spinning round kick – for 3 points that astonished his opponent. In the second, the Briton slowed his pace. Cook attacked and attacked, but could not penetrate Muhammad’s tight, back-weighted defense. Cook fell, then lost another point as Muhammad’s stabbing side kick slammed into his midsection. The second ended 5-1 to Muhammad. In the third, Cook won another point but visited the mat again. Cook attacked, but Muhammad jammed Cook’s spins, denying him a high-scoring kick. With Cook tumbling yet again, the match ended 7-3. Muhammad looked exultant; Cook fell to his knees in tears. Iran’s Masoud “The Warrior” Hajizavareh beat Russia’s Albert Gaun to take the bronze, 5-4 – then succumbed to exhaustion and fell to the floor.

Korea’s Tae-hun Kim. The match started with cagey front foot fencing, as both boys tried to find the range, but with the Iranian looking lighter and faster. The round ended without a score. In the second, Kim tried to drop the ax, while the Iranian returned fire with tactical cutting kicks. Again, the round ended score-free. Ashourzadeh Fallah finally took a one-point lead after Kim earned his second penalty – then, in the last three seconds, Kim connected with a round kick to the head for three points and the gold. Mexico’s Cesar Rodriguez beat Portugal’s Rui Braganca on superiority in golden point for the bronze in a fiercely contested match, delighting the vocal home crowd. In the category, Korea’s Tae-hun Kim, Iran’s Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah, Portugal’s Rui Braganca, Germany’s Levent Tuncat, Mexico’s Cesar Rodriguez and Belgium’s Si Mohammed Ketbi won Olympic places for their NOCs. In the final match of the female -57kg category, Egypt’s Hedaya Malak took on Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez. Malak displayed an elastic front leg, and both girls played a long-range, front-leg game, but despite a high work rate, Round 1 ended scoreless. In the second, Malak raised her kick rate and moved forward aggressively; Calvo Gomez attempted to counter off the Egyptian’s attacks. Yet neither girl found the range. In the third, both girls tried spin back kicks; neither connected. With the score 0-0, the match went to golden point. In the last 11 seconds, Malak raised her leg and dropped a precise-looking ax kick to Calvo Gomez’s face. It did not register. The Egyptian coach appealed. After a tense few seconds, the appeal was granted, giving Malak gold and Calvo Gomez silver. For the bronze, Great Britain’s Jade Jones beat Sweden’s Nikita Glasinovic on superiority in golden point. In the category, Great Britain’s Jade Jones, Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez, Egypt’s Hedaya Malak, Japan’s Mayu Hamada, Chinese Taipei’s Yun-wen Huang and Croatia’s Ana Zaninovic earned Olympic slots. The finals of the male +80kg category pitted France’s M’Bar N’Diaye against Iran’s Sajjad Mardani. Both men started off playing side-on, defensive games, trying to fake each other into making a mistake. The cagey strategies left the scoreboard

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kicks, but to no avail; the match ended 4-1 to the Chinese girl. For the bronze, the Netherlands’ Reshmie Oogink beat the USA’s Jackie Galloway 4-1, despite a last-second appeal by Galloway’s coach for a head kick. Athletes who won Olympic quota places in the category were China’s Shuyin Zheng, Serbia’s Milica Mandic, Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden, France’s Gwladys Epangue and Mexico’s Maria Espinoza. In the final of the male -68kg, Mexico’s Saul Gutierrez faced off for gold against Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee. In this match, it was the Mexican fighter who was the taller, but it was Lee who put the pressure on, attacking forward with a stabbing side kick, varied with turning and oblique kicks. Lee went one up, then two, then three with separate body kicks. Round 1 ended 3-0 to Lee with Gutierrez looking frustrated. In the second, the Mexican started using his height to his advantage, connecting with a head kick for three points, evening the score and delighting the crowd. With both fighters raising their work rate, the board went to 4-4. A head kick appeal won Gutierrez a further three points, ending the second round 7-5 to the local lad. Round three started with Lee looking dangerous as he tried to force the Mexican off the mats. Gutierrez was

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dropped to the deck and Lee closed the gap to a one-point difference - then scored again, evening the board to 7-7 at the end of the third. Lee looked fresher as the two fighters came out for the golden point. Lee was the first to connect with a body kick, earning golden point and gold medal. Russia’s Alexey Denisenko and Belgium’s Jaouad Achab engaged in a closely fought battle for the bronze. With the score ending 2-2, it went to golden point. Achab struck first with a jump turning kick to the body, taking the medal. Athletes who earned Rio slots in the category were Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee, Russia’s Alexey Denisenko, Belgium’s Jaouad Achab, Mexico’s Saul Gutierrez, Turkey’s Servet Tazegul and Spain’s Joel Gonzalez Bonilla. Thus ended the Grand Prix series for 2015. After a year that has been mentally stressful – due to the build-up to Rio - and physically grueling – it featured a range of Opens, as well as the Worlds and then the Grand Prix series jammed into the second half - for the athletes, things ended with an appropriate pressure release. A post-tournament party provided a chance for everyone to let their hair down in a downtown Mexico City nightclub. Many of the athletes who danced the night away will next meet on Rio’s mats.

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2nd WTF Gala Awards

2nd WTF

Gala Awards WTF honors top taekwondo athletes, officials at 2015 Gala Awards in Mexico City

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thletes from China and Korea were named Players of the Year on Dec. 7, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico, as the WTF wrapped up 2015 by honoring key figures in the sport at the federation’s second

annual Gala Awards. The red-carpet event, inaugurated in 2015 as part of an effort by the WTF to boost the profile of its athletes and add a touch of glamor to the sport, took place in an appropriately prestigious venue: Mexico’s National Theater in the heart of the capital. In the theater’s floodlit, baroque interior, athletes and officials – usually attired in track suits and referee uniforms – mingled in lounge suits and cocktail dresses. On the stage – more typically a setting for operas – LED screens ran highlights from the year’s competitions and various traditional dances, including flamenco and a shamanistic display, were performed before

WTF President Chungwon Choue was presented. “It is a pleasure to hold the second taekwondo gala event in Mexico,” Choue said. “Mexico is always a great supporter of

worldwide. The THF will launch full operations in 2016. He added that the taekwondo competition in Rio would be even better than the London 2012 Games. Dramatic, music-backed

taekwondo.” Choue went on to talk about a nascent initiative of the WTF, the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, which will take taekwondo into refugee camps

poomsae was performed by Mexican champions, then the awards got underway. Awards had been voted on mostly by peers. Ballots had been filled in at the previous

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Grand Prix Series 3 event in Manchester, UK, in October, as well as on-site at the National Theater. The first award, the 2015 Female Referee of the Year Award

was won by Kalay Suddai of Thailand. It was presented by Djibouti IOC Member Aicha Garad Ali and Pan American Taekwondo Union President Ji-ho Choi.

The 2015 Male Referee of the Year Award was won by Tarik Benradi of Morocco. It was presented by African Taekwondo Union President Gen. Ahmed Fouly and Guatemala Taekwon-

do Federation President and WTF Council Member Maria Rosario Borello Castillo. In Manchester, four male and four female best referee nominees had been chosen by their peers. The final selection was made by the WTF Selection Committee, composed of the five-member Competition Supervisory Board. The 2015 Member National Association (MNA) of the Year Award was won by Russia, which had hosted both the 2015 World Championships in Chelyabinsk and the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series 1 in Moscow. The award was presented by former Miss USA and taekwondo 4th dan Nia Sanchez, and WTF Vice President and Peruvian IOC Member Ivan Dibos.

Female Player of the Year

Male Player of the Year

Female Referee of the Year

Male Referee of the Year

Coach of the Year

Best Kick of the Year

MNA of the Year

Outstanding Contribution Award

Jingyu Wu (China)

Dae-hoon Lee (Korea)

Kalay Suddai (Thailand)

Tarik Benradi (Morocco)

Gulsah Alonso (Egypt)

Aaron Cook (Moldova)

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Other nominated MNAs were Turkey, Great Britain and Mexico – nations which had hosted 2015’s major WTF events. The winner was chosen by the WTF leadership. After a Mariachi band performed, a new award inaugurated in 2015, the 2015 Best Kick of the Year, was won by Moldova’s Aaron Cook for his jumping, spin-turning kick knockout of Mali’s Ismael Coulibaly at the Moscow Grand Prix Series 1– a blow which blended a high degree of difficulty with textbook execution and wicked power. On stage, Cook likened the winning of the award to an Oscar, then thanked his team and brother, Luke, for his coaching. The other athletes whose kicks were nominated were China’s Jingyu Wu, Great Britain’s

Jade Jones, Korea’s Chul-ho Cho, and Turkey’s Servet Tazegul. The WTF Selection Committee made the final decision. The award was presented by Mexican Taekwondo Feder-

ation President Juan Manuel Lopez Delgado and European Taekwondo Union President Athanasios Pragalos. After a brief LED presentation on Mexican taekwondo history,

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a pair of Outstanding Contribution awards, granted and presented by Choue, were handed to the Mexican and Jordanian taekwondo federations. The 2015 Coach of the Year Award was won by Gulsah Alonso of Egypt, who men-

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tioned “the most important man” in her life, her husband, in her acceptance speech. The award was presented by Honorary IOC Member Melitón Sanchez Rivas of Panama and Oceania Taekwondo Union President John Kotsifas.

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Alonso won 20 percent of the votes cast. A total of 99 referees, athletes and coaches voted for the award. The other nominees were Korea’s Jung-eun Jang with 19 percent, France’s Baverel Myriam with 17 percent, Belgium’s Karim Dighou with 13 percent, Iran’s Bijan Moghanlou with 12 percent, Uzbekistan’s Alexander Kim with 10 percent, and Russia’s Stanislav Khan with 8 percent. After a musical interlude, the 2015 Female Player of the Year award was won by China’s Jingyu Wu. The diminutive Wu is a double Olympic gold medalist, has dominated the women’s -49kg category in 2015 and is a favorite for another gold in Rio. She urged her fellow athletes to “enjoy life and enjoy taekwon-

do!” The award was presented by the previous year’s winner, Jade Jones of Great Britain, and Choue. Wu received 39 percent of votes cast. A total of 130 players voted in Manchester and 48 players in Mexico City. The other players who had been up for the award were Great Britain’s Jade Jones with 16.4 percent; Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez and Serbia’s Milica Mandic each with 6.4 percent; and France’s Haby Niare with 5.4 percent. To be eligible for the Player of the Year awards, nominees had to be world ranking number 1, 2, 3, or 4 in Manchester Grand Prix, and number 1 or 2 in the Mexico Grand Prix final. The 2015 Male Player of the Year award was presented by the

previous year’s awardee, Korea’s Dae-hoon Lee and Choue. The winner was a considerable surprise. Choue joked that Lee should read out the name on the card – Lee’s own. “I will always try my best,” he said in a surprised acceptance speech. Lee won 16.4 percent of the votes cast. A total of 132 players voted in Manchester and 49 players voted in Mexico City. The other players nominated for the award were Russia’s Dmitriy Shokin with 15.8 percent, Iran’s Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah with 13.2 percent, Iran’s Madhi Khodabakhshi with 11.8 percent, and Russia’s Alexey Denisenko with 10.6 percent. Thus ended the WTF’s second annual Gala Awards. The third will follow the Rio Olympics.

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China and Azerbaijan Victorious in 2015 World Cup Team Championships in Mexico City 2015 WTF World Cup Taekwondo Team Championships Location: Mexico City, Mexico Dates: Dec. 8-9, 2015

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he Chinese national team won gold in the female category in a match likely to go down in history, while the Azerbaijan national team took gold in the men’s division at the 2015 WTF World Cup Taekwondo Team Championships, which took place on Dec. 8-9, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. In the female division, silver was won by host Mexico, while Chinese Taipei and Korea settled for bronzes. In the male category, Iran took silver, while Russia and Korea went home with bronzes. The finals capped a two-day “battle of the nations” at the Sala de Armas, the Olympic fencing venue in the Magdalena Mixihuca Sports Complex in Mexico City, featuring taekwondo’s most exciting competition format. Teams feature six players each. In the first round, fighters are matched by pre-set number. In the second and third rounds, coaches can substitute fighters up to 12 times, signaling each change by audio horn. Teams are allowed up to two foreign players. The women’s final pitched Mexico in red uniforms against China in blue in what is likely to be talked about as a classic contest for years to come. The Chinese national team comprised Shuyin Zheng; double Olympic gold medalist and WTF 2015 Female Player of the Year

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Jingyu Wu; Hua Zhang – who proved a dynamo in this format – Fenfen Shao; Yunfei Guo; and Zhaoyi Li. The Mexico national team was composed of Itzel Manjarrez, Anel Vaitaire Felix Perez, Paulina Armeria, guest player Haby “The Abigator” Niare of France, Mexican national heroine and Olympic medalist Maria Espinoza, and Katherine Dumar. In Round 1, the combat stared at a surging pace, with both teams fighting aggressively. China seized an early lead, the Chinese fighters, being taller and leggier than the local girls. The round ended 6-2 to China. In the second, China extended their lead to 8-2. Niare – a hired gun fighting for Mexico, who may well be offered a Mexican passport for her heroics under the host country’s flag – grabbed a slew of points with a flurry and a head kick, but then China regained the lead, to 16-6. As the clock counted down, there was intense fighting with head shots being exchanged by both teams and both coaches making lightning substitutions. The round ended 21-15 to China. Action restarted with the Mexicans looking more aggressive and the Chinese more tactical; midway through, the board was 22-16 to China. Then Mexico came back, evening the score to 26-26. Again, China crept ahead as both coaches matched

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change for change. For the first time, Mexico went ahead, 26-29 thanks to Espinoza. Then it was 30-30. The crowd stamped and roared as the board went to 31-31 and the final bell sounded. Pundits reached for their rule books to find that the winner would be the first team to reach three points. Both teams started fast and the board flashed to 1-1. Then China went up to 2-1 amid a slew of fast substitutions. Mexico played both Espinoza and Niare – fighters who can seize three points with back kicks – but it was China’s towering Zheng who decided matters with a body kick for the last point. Thus ended an epic clash. The China national team had advanced to the final after demolishing the Chinese Taipei national team 31-14, while the Mexican national team had beaten the Korean national team – last’ year’s champions – 2517 in an edge-of-the seat matchup. In the final of the men’s category, Iran in white uniforms, did battle with Azerbaijan in blue. The very tall, very leggy Azerbaijan national team was composed of Radik Isaev, Sina Bahrami, Aykhan Taghizade, Said Guliyev, Milad Beigi Harchegani, and Mahammad Mammadov, while the Iranian national team comprised Armin Hadipour Seighalani, Mohammad Kazemi, Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari, World Champion Masoud Hajizavareh, and Saeid Rajabi. The match stared in tactical, stand-off style, before Azerbaijan seized a 3-1 lead, then gradually raised it, ending the round 8-6. Round 2 started well for Azerbaijan, kicking off the Iranian fighter’s head

guard. From then on, it was all downhill for Iran, unable to cope with the leg length and height of the Azeri players who were scoring with head shots from both long and close range. Despite some heroic play by the up-and-coming Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari, Iran looked increasingly frustrated. The round ended 29-11 to Azerbaijan. In the third, things continued to go Azerbaijan’s way. With just two minutes left, it was 38-16 to Azerbaijan. Iran desperately needed to pull something very special out of the bag – but the bag was empty. It ended 42-23 to Azerbaijan – a nation which has heavily invested in taekwondo in recent years. After the final bell, its embracing, dancing players looked absolutely delighted to have delivered a return on that investment. On their way to the final, the Azerbaijan national team had overshadowed and overpowered the Korean national team 48-30, while the Iranian national team had, in a tough but entertaining contest, dispatched the Russian national team, the previous year’s champions, 31-24 In special awards, Cote d’Ivoire won the Good Fighting Spirit award; the USA won the Active Participation award. Reza Mehmandoust of Azerbaijan won the Best Male Coach award, while Korean Kyo-sick Kim, who serves as the coach of the Chinese national female team, won the Best Female Coach award. Male MVP honors when to Azerbaijan’s Milad Beigi Harchegani and China’s Shuyin Zheng was chosen as the female MVP. Hee-yeong Kim of Korea, Conrad Jenkins of Jamaica and Guillermo Rodriguez of Venezuela were named best referees.

2015 WTF World Cup Taekwondo Team Championships

Medal Standings Division

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Male

Azerbaijan

Iran

Korea Russia

Female

China

Mexico

Korea Chinese Taipei

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Korea Grabs Overall Male Title, Iran Female, at 2nd WTF World Cadet Championships in Muju, Korea 2nd WTF World Cadet Taekwondo Championships Location: Muju, Korea Dates: Aug. 23-26, 2015

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he 2nd WTF World Cadet Taekwondo Championships were held on Aug. 2326, 2015 in Muju, Korea. Korea took the overall male title and Iran clinched the overall female crown at the championships. The cadet championships, which are for youths aged between 12 and 14 years old, featrued 10 male and 10 female weight categories. The four-day event took place at the T1 Arena of the Taekwondowon and drew 465 athletes from 59 countries. A KP&P protector and scoring system (PSS) and an instant video replay system were adopted in Muju, while electronic head gear with visors was used for the safety of the young participants. In the male division, Korea won three gold medals, one silver and one bronze for a to-

tal of 63 points for the top honors. Iran came next with two golds, two silvers and one bronze for 58 points, followed by Russia with one gold, two silvers and one bronze for 47 points. Germany stood at fourth with two golds and one bronze for 38 points and Thailand followed with one gold, one silver and one bronze for 34 points. In the female category, defending champion Iran took home the overall title as it grabbed five gold medals, one silver and one bronze for a total of 83 points. Russia came next with one gold, three silvers and one bronze for 48 points, while the United States followed with one gold, one silver and one bronze for 37 points. Korea stood at fourth with one gold and one bronze for 36 points, while Turkey came next with one silver and three bronzes for 33

points. Korea’s Gi-yeong Lee, the gold medalist in the male -49kg division, was selected as the male MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the Muju championships, while Thailand’s Ploylapus Chaiprasit, the gold medalist in the female -41kg weight division, was named the female MVP. The Good Fighting Spirit Award went to Palestine, while India received the Active Participation Award. The Best Referee Awards went to Korea’s Jae-sung Moon, Jordan’s Anees Ibrahim Al-Atari and Austria’s Reza Shojaie Aliabadi. Korea’s Tae-hoon Lee was chosen as the best male team coach, while Iran’s Mahru Komrani was selected as the best female team coach.

The 2nd WTF World Cadet Taekwondo Championships

Medal Standings Male Rank NOC

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Female Gold

Silver Bronze

Pts. Total

Rank NOC

Gold

Silver Bronze

Pts. Total

1 KOR 3 1

1

63

1 IRI

5 1

1

83

2 IRI

2 2

1

58

2 RUS 1 3

1

48

3 RUS 1 2

1

47

3 USA 1 1

1

37

4 GER 2 0

1

38

4 KOR 1 0

1

36

5 THA 1 1

1

34

5 TUR 0 1

3

33

6 MEX 0 1

3

34

6 THA 1 1

1

30

7 UKR 1 1

1

32

7 FRA 1 0

1

24

8 KAZ 0 0

2

24

8 ESP 0 1

1

20

9 TUR 0 0

2

23

9 MEX 0 0

0

19

10 EGY

0

0

0

19

10 JOR

0

1

0

18

11 IND

0

0

0

18

11 GER

0

0

3

18

12 USA

0

0

0

18

12 EGY

0

0

1

17

13 GBR

0

0

1

17

13 KAZ 0

0

1

16

14 PHI

0

0

1

17

14 GBR

0

0

1

15

15 AUS

0

0

0

16

15 AUS

0

0

0

14

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Athlete Interviews

IRAN

Masoud Hajizavareh

For Joyful Warrior, Taekwondo is

‘The most important thing is I really enjoy competing: I kind of like to fight’

GAME ON For this cornerstone of the powerhouse Iranian team, taekwondo is all

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t was not difficult to conclude that Masoud Hajizavareh was a happy man. At the award ceremony to collect his gold medal in the male -74kg division at the Traktor Arena in Chelyabinsk, Russia on May 14, 2015, he didn’t step up onto the winner’s rostrum - he leapt onto it with a huge grin lighting up his face. And that is not an unusual state of mind, for the 26-year-old enjoys what he does. “The most important thing is I really enjoy competing,” he said. “I kind of like to fight.” Hajizavareh’s game is on the up. The world-ranked number eight, he won bronze at the 2014 Grand Prix in Manchester, U.K., and a gold at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea, the same year.

‘To be successful, you have to dedicate your life to it’

But to add a world championship to his growing list of titles in the World Taekwondo Championships in Chelyabinsk, he had to face, after cleaving his way through the preliminaries, hometown favorite Albert Gaun of Russia. Their semifinal match opened with a war of nerves as both men sparred for distance at the center of the mat. It was the Iranian who landed first, taking the round, 1-0. Gaun came out stronger in the second, pulling the score up after an appeal by the Iranian coach was nixed. The round ended 4-4, leaving everything to play for in the third round - and with the crowd roaring for Gaun. Late in the final round, the Iranian landed a punch, taking a onepoint lead – then Gaun himself connected with his fist in the very last second. That took the match to golden point. Both athletes came out fighting. Gaun fired off a head kick, but the Iranian countered with an ax kick that landed on the body protector – taking both point and match. “He was the most difficult opponent, and in the previous World Championships, I had lost to Gaun, so I had planned and studied how to fight him,” he said. “But though he was the most difficult

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Athlete Interviews

IRAN

‘When I compete, I want to do everything to make people enjoy it more - just a little!’

opponent, in all my previous matches the athletes were the best - they were all difficult.” In the finals, Hajizavareh faced world thirdranked Nikita Rafalovic of Uzbekistan. From the start, neither man gave an inch, dueling in center court. Hajizavareh caught the Uzbek by surprise with a high kick, winning three points, following up with a punch, for a 4-0 lead. Trusting to his reflexes and distancing, Hajizavareh dropped down into low, open stances, taunting his opponent. Rafalovich was game, but the Iranian’s accuracy proved superior: another out-of-the-blue ax kick rattled Rafalovich. Round two ended 2-8. In the final round, Rafalovich found his distance, clawing back the score to 4-8, before the match degenerated into a scrappy affair of clinching - during which the Iranian stole another point with a monkey kick. As the seconds counted down, the Uzbek went all out, but Hajizavareh kept his cool and took the title 9-7. The key technique the Iranian uses is

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Masoud Hajizavareh

crowd-pleasing and point-winning. The Iranian is an ax man. “The ax kick - this is my main skill,” he said. But what about that business of dropping back into low stances and taunting his opponent? “When I compete, I want to do everything to make people enjoy it more,” he said. “Just a little!” A native of Kermanshah, Hajizavareh is a full-time athlete. Working out at the House of Taekwondo in Teheran, he undergoes two training sessions a day, one in the morning (conditioning) and one in the evening (techniques and tactics). “I believe that the Iran National Team is enjoying the best coaches in the world ever,” he said. “They are very up to date, and the athletes follow all the guidelines of the coaches.” Iran’s taekwondo assets include not just state support but even a dedicated taekwondo TV channel. To reach his current elite status on the national squad, he previously spent eight years in training camps, eating, drinking and breathing taekwondo, a skill he has practiced for 20

years. That conditioning has rubbed off. The man is totally absorbed by the sport: During this interview, in the venue media center, his attention kept wandering up to the screen broadcasting the matches. His commitment is total. “I have no plans for life now, I am so focused on the Olympics!” he said. “I have been married for five years, but no children yet.” Asked if this kind of laser-like focus is necessary to be a champion, his response is immediate. “Yes!” he said. “To be successful, you have to dedicate your life to it.” He has no hobbies beyond taekwondo. As for his post-competitive career, the answer is predictable: “I will continue as a coach.” However, unlike team mate Farzan “The Tsunami” Ashourzadeh Falleh, he does not have a nickname. If he did, what might it be? Hajizavareh thinks for a moment. “If I had a nickname, it would be ‘warrior.’”

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MEXICO

Carlos Navarro

Carlos ‘Charley’ Navarro: Skills, Spills and

Big Smiles Combining exuberant spirit with spectacular technique, Carlos Navarro is one of the leading lights in the rising generation of Latin American taekwondo

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f you are looking for a taekwondo male model, Carlos “Charley” Navarro might just fit the bill. As energetic as a power station, as slim as a rapier, and with the slicked-back hair, flashing grin and Latin good looks of a tango maestro, the kid from Juarez, Mexico, is one of the leading lights of taekwondo’s upcoming generation. He loves the game. “I do taekwondo because I love it!” he said. “When you get to such a high level, like now, competitors may lose the spark, but I can’t: I fight with passion!” His exuberant spark was on full display at the Moscow Grand Prix. Despite his youth, the 19-year-old does not play the “new” game – characterized by stand-off, tactical play favoring the front leg. Instead, he displays a full range of flamboyant techniques, notably the high kicks and spins that the crowd love to watch.

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for point. It was intense stuff: In mid-combat, Navarro went off the mats, crashing into a promotional stand and sending it flying. He draw smiles from the crowd when he replaced the stand - then surged back into action. Was he fazed by the spill? Apparently not. “I was spinning a lot and realized I was out and crashed into the stand ,” he said. “But I moved right back.” The match could have gone either way until “The Tsunami” – in a show of professionalism common to many of the Iranian fighters – shifted up a gear in the final round and pulled ahead. That forced the Mexican to uncork a down-to-the-wire series of spinning kicks from the very edge of the mat, but at the final bell, “The Tsunami” had won an 8-5 victory.

And he does not let a spill throw him off his stride.

Though he had to be satisfied with silver, the young Mexican’s style and sportsmanship had caught the eye of another legendary fighter - none other than WTF Technical Committee Chairman Kook-hyun Jung.

In the finals of the men’s -58kg category, his opponent was Iran’s Farzan “The Tsunami” Ashourzadeh Fallah, the most dominant fighter in the division. But Navarro was unfazed by the Iranian powerhouse, battling him point

“He has a lot of potential: Good game management and kicking movements, good basic movements, a variety of techniques and he has a good physique and fitness,” Jung said of Navarro. “Good fighting - very good fighting!

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MEXICO

I don’t care about the results! He fought very good matches!”

‘Most people, when they lose, get upset and think, “I can’t beat him.” But I erase everything; I will get him next time - and there will be a next time’

‘When you get to such a high level, like now, competitors may lose the spark, but I can’t: I fight with passion!’

In a post-mortem the following day, Navarro dissected the fight. “In the Farzan match, I felt really strong mentally and physically. We were 5-5 with a minute to go and we knew it was going to go to the very end.” He was not upset settling for silver. “One of the things is that most people, when they lose, get upset and think, ‘I can’t beat him,’” he said. “But I erase everything; I will get him next time and there will be a next time.”

As for the mental game, he has a simple recipe. “I believe I am very strong mentally, I am very passionate about taekwondo, and I like to have fun,” he said. “That is the key to success: having fun in everything.” Despite the pressures weighing on all athletes in the 2015 fighting season – the leadup to Rio – Navarro remains upbeat. “Close to the Olympics, there is a lot of tension: People don’t talk to each other, it’s very tense,” he said. But characteristically, at the World Championships in Chelyabinsk, Navarro traded t-shirts with his competitors.

“Since I won the World Junior Championships in 2010 when I was 13, I have had a lot of help and sponsorships and all the people in Mexico watch me – it’s crazy, the TV, the magazines!” he said. “When the team came back from the Pan Ams, I have never seen so many cameras at the airport waiting for the taekwondo team.” He is sponsored by Adidas taekwondo, and hopes to gain additional sponsorship with Adidas clothing. “And yes, I do wear Adidas!” he added, with a grin.

In addition to his silver in Moscow, he took gold at the Pan American Games in 2015 and won a fifth placing in the World Championships at Chelyabinsk.

As a player, he has a wide range of assets. “The back kick is my favorite and obviously all the face kicks and round kicks,“ he said. “All the speed-related kicks.” Stamina is no problem – “I like to run a lot” - though he admitted that making the weight can be challenging. And he confesses that there is one element of tourney preparation he does not

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enjoy. “I hate watching my opponent’s fight, I don’t like it,” he said. “My coach always tells me I have to, but I hate it! I know what they do and know what I am going to do.”

With taekwondo being the number two sport in Mexico after football, Navarro is happy with media and sponsorship opportunities.

“Charley” started taekwondo at age 5: “My parents thought it was a good idea because I was so energetic all the time,” he said. “I am still energetic, but am more disciplined now.”

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A full-time athlete who lives at the National Training Center in Mexico City, Navarro is also a part-time student taking an online course in sport management at ITSON University. Currently unattached – “no girlfriend!” he said – he enjoys hanging with friends, watching movies, playing football and spending time at home: “My family is the most important thing in the world.” Looking into the future, his dream is predictable. “Obviously, every athlete’s dream is Olympic gold,” he said. But whether or not he makes it through to Rio – and Team Mexico has a wide pool of fighters in his weight category – he knows that, at his age, there will be future opportunities. “I don’t worry about many things,” he said. “I’m always smiling.”

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Athlete Interviews

RUSSIA

Ruslan Poiseev

This David Fears No Goliath

‘When we are training, I never show my pain or talk about it, I always say “I am fine.” So the lads say I am like a stone or a machine’

Team Russia’s wildest member is one of taekwondo’s most unorthodox stylists ...

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t was the most heartbreaking fight of the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships. In the semifinals of the male -58kg category, Russian Ruslan Poiseev had the home town crowd on his side - but all other odds were stacked against him. In a sport where tall, leggy fighters have the advantage, Poiseev, ranked 4th in the world, was at least a head shorter than his opponent, the world-ranked number one, Iran’s Farzan Ashourzadeh Fallah. Moreover, “The Tsunami” is perhaps the most dominant fighter in taekwondo today: He regularly sweeps championships and humiliates opponents by winning with maximum point differentials. On paper, it should have been a wipeout. On the mats, Ashourzadeh Fallah faced perhaps the most serious challenge to his crown. Poiseev was totally unintimidated. Round 1 opened with the Iranian towering over his opponent and fighting with his perfected foot-fencing style. But it was Poiseev who took the first point with an earth-shaking punch. With Ashourzadeh Fallah attempting to control the center of the ring, Poiseev struck home a second time, with another punch. It was clear that the Russian was cancelling out the Iranian’s height advantage by taking the fight in to ultra-close range – then “The Tsunami” struck back with a head kick, taking the score to 3-2. But Poisseev had come

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to fight, and racked up two more points, making it 4-3, before his opponent equalized it, 4-4. Then, defying his height disadvantage, Poiseev rocked Ashourzadeh Fallah with a head kick that brought the audience to its feet. Then yet another head shot from Poiseev connected, taking the score 7-4 to the diminutive Russian. Astonished by these out-of-nowhere kicks, the Iranian looked temporarily lost as his coach shouted advice. The fight descended into some messy clinch work – then Poiseev scored yet again, with a body shot. As the final round began, Poiseev was leading the scoring 10-6, but his opponent had got his second wind. Striking out with his heat-seeking front leg, Ashourzadeh Fallah started racking up the points, taking the match to 11-11. In the final seconds it was all down to one point. It was the Iranian who struck first, taking the wining point with just two seconds left on the clock. It was a brilliant comeback and a master performance by the Iranian phenomenum - but it was Poiseev’s smart tactics, bulldozer style and shear heart that won the crowd. And he is unfazed by the loss, setting his sights on the next combat. “I want to fight with the strongest,” he said. Poiseev’s team mates have given him an odd nickname. “When we

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Athlete Interviews

RUSSIA

Ruslan Poiseev

‘In my character, if it is easy, I am not interested. If it is very difficult, I am interested’

‘This region I am from, fighting is very popular boxing, taekwondo, wrestling, all kinds of fighting! - because genetically we are not very tall, but we are very well built’

are training, I never show my pain or talk about it, I always say ‘I am fine,’” he said. “So the lads say I am like a stone or a machine.” That nickname and his never-say-die attitude may be in-built, for Poiseev hails from one of the most inhospitable urban environments on earth: the city of Yakutsk. Located about 450kms south of the Arctic Circle, where the temperature can plummet to 70 degrees below zero, Yakutsk is known for its gold and diamond mines. It is also known for breeding some of Russia’s hardest men. “This region I am from, fighting is very popular - boxing, taekwondo, wrestling, all kinds of fighting! - because genetically we are not very tall, but we are very well built,” he said. “I am from a region where it is tough. A lot of lads turn to crime.”

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Of course, when it comes to a combat sport, this kind of background can be a plus. “My heart and my body work well under any kind of pressure, these good genes come from conditions of nature that a normal person cannot survive,” he said. “On the Russian team everybody asks, ‘In your region, is everybody wild like you?’” As a youth, Poiseev hung around with a rough crowd. They would sample various sports and be kicked out for breaking rules. “We were very tight, very aggressive and we saw a lot of Van Damme and Jackie Chan films,” he recalled. When the crew heard that a new sport had come to town - something called “taekwondo” – they decided to give it a try. After his first lesson, Poiseev found he could barely move. “I told my mom, ‘This is not for me!’” She told him to give it anoth-

er try - a piece of advice that would stick with the young man. “Now, in my character, if it is easy, I am not interested,” he said. “If it is very difficult, I am interested.”

kick.” Poiseev counted one-twothree then looked around. His opponent was folded up on the floor, crying.

Poiseev’s taekwondo club was so poor, there was only one dobok, which was passed from player to player; it was either too big or too small for most of them. When they entered their first competition, the dobok disappeared, so Poiseev, aged 12 and a beginner in taekwondo, asked to fight wearing only a T-shirt. He was allowed to, though his opponent was a black belt.

Poiseev went on to win second place in the competition. “I got the silver medal, so I carried it with me, on the buses and everywhere!” he said. He has been with the sport ever since.

“When they warmed up, my opponent put his leg very high up, it was a big stress for me, my coach said, ‘Don’t look at him!’” he recalled. “I was very scared in my first fight, my opponent shouted and ran at me, so I just covered up and fired a back

Growing up in Yakutsk, he developed, because of his short stature, a personalized fighting style, based on head butts and shooting for the opponent’s legs. Now a full-time taekwondo athlete, he has developed his own unique style to deal with taller opponents. “When I was 17, I had a lot of questions about this and my coach could not answer all these questions,” he said - so he found his own. He borrowed heavily from other sports. He

has copied footwork from football, uses wrestling-style arm controls in the clinch, and boxing techniques when punching. He has also worked out how to kick high from very close range, cutting under his opponents’ legs. He is no one-dimensional fighter. In 2009, he was invited by a judo coach to fight in a mixed martial arts tournament – which he won, despite being a complete unknown. He has also practiced boxing, and has been approached by professional football clubs. “The football coaches say, ‘You are not paid enough, taekwondo is not famous like football,’ but I said, ‘I have everything: I have a salary, a black belt and a degree in sport,’” he said. “I am devoted to tae-

kwondo!” After winning his medal in Chelyabinsk, he called his mother. She was in tears, cursing the judges. His father simply told him to come home. And what about his wild friends from his school days? “Some of them have a criminal background, but they are happy for me, they read the newspaper and they support me,” he said. So although he had to settle for bronze in the championships, Poiseev is grateful to taekwondo. “I am lucky I got into this sport,” he mused. “If I had not, I might have been a gangster.”

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Athlete Interviews

IRAN ‘At the last two GPs, I got bronze medals, but I threw them away. My friends were surprised: I said, “These things don’t matter to me, I only want gold”’

Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari

‘Mr. Unpredictable’ Aims to be Taekwondo’s Greatest-Ever Fighter If you need confidence to succeed, one of the upcoming fighters on Team Iran has it. In spades ...

I

n boxing, it was Mohammed Ali. In MMA, it is Conor McGregor. And in taekwondo the most self-confident, most self-regarding fighter might just be an 18-year from Mazandaran, Iran. “I think I am phenomenal, there has been nobody like me in taekwondo,” says Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari. “And there will be nobody like me.” He went to Manchester as the world-ranked number 18, but listening to him you could be mistaken for thinking he is number one. Then again, an iron core of self-belief – if not arrogance – is critical for an elite athlete. And it is not empty talk. In Manchester, at the Grand Prix Series 2, he scorched his way through the -68kg division with laser-like focus and venomous intent. En route to the finals, he took on Belgium’s Jaouad Achab, the top-ranked player in the division and one of the most versatile fighters in the sport. Having dispatched Achab, he found himself squaring off against the legendary Servet “The Cheetah” Tazegul in the semifinals.

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Pitting the Turk’s leaping, spinning offensive against the Iranian’s accuracy and tactical nous, the fight was an epic: In a sport where 1-0 victories are not uncommon, the two battled to a 22-22 (yes, that is not a typo; 22-22) draw before the Iranian youngster took out the Turkish Olympic champ in golden point. Then it was the final against Korea’s Daehoon Lee for gold. Lee started the match firing off a barrage of kicks, but it was the Iranian who found the range and took an early two-point lead. The Korean shot back, but Yaghoubijouybari soon regained his advantage with a picture-perfect punch, ending the round 3-1. As Round 2 got underway, Lee – at 23, an older and more experienced fighter - regained his composure. He maneuvered his opponent to the edge of the mats and landed a head shot, putting him ahead. From then on, the match went Lee’s way, all the way. Yaghoubijouybari almost got back into the game with a spin kick, but Lee was giving the crowd a cool-headed display of technique,

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Athlete Interviews

IRAN ‘I was overactive and I used to get in a lot of trouble because of my energy! My parents would not let me leave the house, but inside the house I used to beat up everybody!’

scoring to both body and head. The fight ended 16-7 to the Korean, whose professionalism showed why he was named the WTF’s “Male Player of the Year” in 2014. “Lee is a great player and the fight with Servet had drained me,” said Yaghoubijouybari. “So I feel like I only played in the first round; in the second and third rounds, I was out of breath, out of energy. At first I was ahead, then I fell behind.” Even so, a silver medal for an 18th ranked 18-year-old – not to mention his earlier victories over Achab and Tazegul – is a considerable sportive achievement. Yet it is one Yaghoubijouybari derides. “At the last two GPs, I got bronze medals, but I threw them away,” he said.“My friends were surprised: I said, ‘These things don’t matter to me, I only want gold.” This interview took place the day following his bouts, but he did not have his medal with him.“Oh, already I don’t know what I have done with my silver,” he said, offhand.

‘If anyone can do the scorpion kick on me, I will give them a thousand dollars! On another player, I will tell them what I am going to do then I will do it’

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He originally got involved in taekwondo to stay out of trouble. “I was overactive and I used to get in a lot of trouble because of my energy!” he said. “My parents would not let me leave the house, but inside the house I used to beat up everybody!” Introduced to taekwondo, he found out immediately that he had a talent for it, “Once I achieved my yellow belt, I started beating second-dan black belts,” he said. “That got me interested, and I did not give up.”

‘I want my fans and followers to know that as soon as I enter the field of play, I am the best player in taekwondo history’

He is nicknamed “Mr. Unpredictable” by his teammates and his favored technique is an unorthodox one: the high heel hook kick or “scorpion kick.” “I was the person who demonstrated this kick for the first time ever, and everybody is following me,” he claims with a hint of bombast. “From far away, anyone can do it, but I do it from close-up.” Questioned further about his mastery of the technique, he insisted, “If anyone can do it on me, I will give them a thousand dollars! On another player, I will tell them what I am going to do - then I will do it.”

Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari

For a young man with such a billowing self-belief, it is unsurprising that he considers his most important combative asset neither his physique nor his technique, but his mental game. “I choose the techniques that I want to do and I follow my own instincts,” he said. “Yesterday I listened to my coach, but if I think I know better, I follow my own initiative.” He is not a fan of any non-Iranian fighter on the circuit. “It looks like they are fencing with their feet, I don’t like the way they fight,” he said - echoing the criticism many traditionalists make of the push-kick game played by many “new-school” players. “They use the bottom of the foot instead of performing taekwondo.” He is short for his category and is unimpressed by taller, leggier fighters. “A lot of players do not have any techniques, all they do, as long as they are tall, is they keep one leg up and earn points that way,” he said. “They don’t show technique or footwork. This is not taekwondo.” Yaghoubijouybari‘s life for now revolves entirely around the sport: he has no other hobby: “It is taekwondo, rest; taekwondo, rest; taekwondo, rest.” Due to his dedication to the game, and the heavy time commitment required to attend Iran’s famous but grueling taekwondo training camps, he had difficulties in high school, but in the future he would like to enroll in higher education and study law. The timing of that depends upon when he has – in his own words – “broken Lopez’s record.” Team USA’s Steven Lopez is the most famous athlete in the sport’s history; a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a five-time world champion. Does the precocious Iranian really think he can break Lopez’s awesome record? “Mr. Unpredictable” smiles, but is deadly serious. “If I did not believe in myself, I would have never followed taekwondo and would have given up,” he said. “I want my fans and followers to know that as soon as I enter the field of play, I am the best player in taekwondo history.”

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Part

4 Para-

Taekwondo

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Russia Wins Double Victory at 6th World Para-Taekwondo Championships in Turkey A record number of inspirational athletes gathered to do battle in Samsun in the wake of the announcement that para-taekwondo is to appear on the Paralympic program in 2020 6th WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships Location: Samsun, Turkey Dates: Sept. 17, 2015

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n a remarkable double victory, Russia took home the overall male and female titles at the 6th WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships, held in Samsun, Turkey on Sept. 17, 2015. Fittingly, the event drew a record number of participants as the sport gears up for its official Paralympic debut: Earlier in 2015, the WTF had been informed that para-taekwondo will be on the program in Tokyo 2020. The one-day tournament, held at the Yasar Dogu Spor Salonu, attracted a record 118 athletes from 34 countries. A total of 130 athletes from 38 countries had registered to participate in the Samsun event, but visa and other problems reduced numbers at the last moment. Although kicks were only allowed to the body, not the head, combat was torrid and the standard of athleticism high. In fact, a handful of the competing para-athletes have even won national titles in able-bodied championships. When the smoke cleared, it was Russia which stood

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dominant. In the male division, Russia took two gold medals, one silver and three bronzes for a total of 60 points for the top honors, followed by Azerbaijan with two golds, one silver and three bronzes for 41 points. The third place went to Iran, which grabbed two golds, one silver and one bronze for 39 points, while Turkey finished at fourth place with one silver and two bronzes for 32 points. Mongolia came next with one gold, one silver and one bronze for 25 points. In the female category, Russia took home two golds, one silver and one bronze for 30 points and the overall female team crown. Turkey came next with one gold, two silvers and one bronze for 23 points, followed by Azerbaijan with one gold and one bronze for 13 points. Denmark came next with one gold for 11 points, while Morocco finished at fifth place with one silver for 6 points. Denmark’s golden girl Lisa Gjessing, the gold medalist in the female K44 A -58kg

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6th WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships

Medal Standings Male

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Female

Rank

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Rank

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

1

Russia

2

1

3

1

Russia

2

1

1

2

Azerbaijan

2

1

3

2

Turkey

1

2

1

3

Iran

2

1

1

3

Azerbaijan

1

0

1

4

Turkey

0

1

2

4

Denmark

1

0

0

5

Mongolia

1

1

1

5

Morocco

0

1

0

6

France

1

0

0

6

Ukraine

0

1

0

7

Croatia

1

0

0

7

Great Britain

0

0

1

8

Kazakhstan

0

1

0

8

France

0

0

1

9

Morocco

0

1

0

9

Greece

0

0

0

10

Spain

0

0

2

10

Nepal

0

0

0

11 12 13

Ukraine Italy Poland

1 0 0

0 1 1

0 0 1

TOTAL

5

5

5

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Guatemala United States Uzbekistan Israel Argentina United Arab Emirates Finland Korea Niger Nepal Venezuela Greece Lesotho Comoros TOTAL

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10

1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10

0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 14

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category, was selected as the female MVP of the Samsun championships. Turkey’s Fatih Celik – a friend and student of Turkish Olympic taekwondo legend Servet “The Cheetah” Tazegul - the silver medalist in the male K44 A -75kg division, was chosen as the male MVP. Kazakhstan’s Murat Temiraliye, Indonesia’s Rahadewineta and Canada’s Eric Wah were selected as best referees of the championships. While only kyorugi will be contested at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, a poomsae event for the intellectually disabled was a vital part of the Samsun championships, featuring a range of determined perfomances. An opening ceremony was held at the venue, drawing such figures as WTF President Chungwon Choue; Ibrahim Sahin, governor of Samsun; Ms. Bennur Karaburun, member of parliament; and Metin Sahin, president of the Turkish Taekwondo Federation. “This year began with the best possible news for our sport,” Choue said in his opening speech, referencing news delivered on January 31, 2015. “On that day, we were informed by the International Paralympic Committee Governing Board that taekwondo will be on the program of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics!” Addressing the athletes, he said, “Five years from now, many of you who are here today will be marching under your na-

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tional flags into the arena in Tokyo. Five years from now, some of you who are here today will be wearing Olympic medals around your necks … and I am confident that you will continue to inspire me as we walk the road to Tokyo together.” Indeed, many athletes attending are deeply inspirational people. Gjessing, a state-prosecutor and mother who lost an arm to cancer is a double gold medalist in para-taekwondo, which she compares to “gasoline for life.” Celik fights with the same kind of panache and punch as his mentor Tazegul, one of the most admired fighters in the sport. Great Britain’s Amy “Kickarse” Truesdale had recently won a national title in able-bodied taekwondo before arriving in Samsun. And Russian champ Spartak “Grizzly” Gazzaev is simply one of the most extraordinary humans one is likely to meet anywhere (see story below). Before the opening ceremony, a joint press conference was held at the venue. Thanking the WTF for the World Para-Taekwondo Championships, Samsun Governor Ibrahim Sahin said, “Samsun is a sport city and we are building new sports facilities” in advance of 2017 when Samsun will host the Deaflympics. Also attending the press conference in a wheelchair was Turkish Parliamentarian Ms. Karaburun - herself a disabled former athlete. “Whoever is in sport, learns a lot for their lives,” she said, to applause.

6th WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships (POOMSAE RESULTS)

Medal Standings P20 Female

P20 Male

G Jhormary ROJAS (COL)

G Federico FRICANO (ITA)

S Brenda PAULISSEN (WTF)

S Joao JESSEN (MOZ)

B Gamze KUS (TUR)

B Dominik RADOSZTICS (AUT)

B Melissa ENGELS (WTF)

B Yavuz BAYAZIT (TUR)

P34 Female

P34 Male

G Janine WATSON (AUS)

G Artur TAIMAZOV (RUS) S Denis OGANIAN (RUS) B Andrei TITOV (RUS)

P31 Male G Andrei TITOV (RUS)

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‘I had a great experience it is like I am in paradise! It was really a big deal taking a plane to go so far’

Para-Taekwondo Athlete Interviews | THE COMOROS

Solaimana Jack Mohammed Mohamod

The Comoros’ Solaimana Jack Mohammed Mohamod:

Have Taekwondo, Will Travel H ‘When one has a disability, that does not mean the end of the world. We must be able to show that we can do sport, and para-taekwondo is one of those that gives us the opportunity to practice a sport at the world level’

e lost his first-ever fight in his first-ever taekwondo competition – suffering a broken hand into the bargain – but Solaimana Jack Mohammed Mohamod left the 6th WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships in Samsun, Turkey, with a smile on his face. The Comoros native was not just the first athlete ever to represent the Indian ocean island nation that lies off the east coast of Africa in a global taekwondo competition; it was also his first time ever to travel abroad. “I had a great experience - it is like I am in paradise!” said the smiling, soft-spoken 33-year-old, his left hand dangling in a sling and secured with a cast. “It was really a big deal taking a plane to go so far.” What were his impressions – of seeing another country, of taking a train, of meeting so many new people? “I have met a lot of people, it is changing

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my thinking, I am going to see things in a different way,” he said. “I had never left the country, now I have seen new things, seen new buildings, met new people who have been very, very kind.” The competition mats, however proved less gentle: In the second round of his first match, Mohamod, a 1st-dan with eight years of taekwondo experience under his black belt, suffered a heavy kick to the little finger bone of his disabled left hand. “I got hit on the left hand and felt it break,” he said. “It destabilized me for the rest of the fight, but I wanted to continue.” He did, indeed, complete the fight, before visiting the doctor’s office. So: A hard lesson for a first competition? Maybe not: “I liked the fight very much,” he said. The competition set-up and organization was an eye-opener. “I was very impressed about how it went on and now I know exactly what I have to do to prepare myself for the next competition,” he said. “I am

going to work hard on improving my techniques.” And he is thinking beyond kyorugi; during classification, he was approved for participation in the poomsae division. “I really like poomsae,” he said. “It shows all the basic and advanced techniques and when one can do them right, it shows the beauty of the art.” Mohamod – nicknamed “Jackie” after Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan – will be taking it all back home with him. “It was a great experience to come to Turkey to discover what para-taekwondo is and now I am motivated to tell other people to do para-taekwondo,” he said. He was born disabled, unable to lift his left arm beyond chest height, and is a professional leather worker who repairs shoes and bags. “I like sports, but especially taekwondo,” he said. “As I have a hand disability, I thought the (foot focused) taekwondo would be a good sport and would

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Now, having achieved that ambition, he has a key message to deliver to his fellow islanders. “When one has a disability, that does not mean the end of the world,” he said. “We must be able to show that we can do sport, and para-taekwondo is one of those that gives us the opportunity to practice a sport at the world level.” Indeed, the lack of necessity for expensive courts or equipment, making it a truly democratic sport, is one of the key selling points of taekwondo. And it might – just might - offer the Comoros a chance for sporting glory in the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.

Para-Taekwondo Athlete Interviews | THE COMOROS

give me a chance to participate in competition one day as a para-athlete.”

Solaimana Jack Mohammed Mohamod

‘As I have a hand disability, I thought taekwondo would be a good sport and would give me a chance to participate in competition one day as a para-athlete’

“I am thinking about it, I have been told about it, and in five years if I train hard, I may have a chance to compete,” Mohamod said. “The Comoros has never won an Olympic medal.” That, however, will take some doing. Mohamod’s Coach Houssen Salim Said Ali admits that things are really just getting started. “We are the first taekwondo players from the Comoros to participate in a world event, so we are starting now, we are initiating it now.” Currently, the archipelago nation needs equipment for its clubs. “That is something that is on my mind,” said Ali. “That is something we are planning to request from the WTF Development Fund.” Ali is the Comoros’ national technical director but will be running in upcoming elections to be the next president of the federation. If elected, he plans to organize a series of regional events, starting with a poomsae competition, in order to build up good relations with other countries among the Indian Ocean island territories. But that all lies in the future. For now, Mohamod’s entry to the para-competition arena in Samsun means that the Union of Comoros has - at last - fully joined the global taekwondo family.

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Para-Taekwondo Athlete Interviews | RUSSIA

Spartak Gazzaev

RUSSIA’S SPARTAK GAZZAEV:

A LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS ‘If God loves you - if you survive, if you do not die - you must ask “Why?” Maybe it is because you need to be here, maybe you have some special mission which you must finish before you go’

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magine you, an 8-year-old boy, are walking to school. You decide, for fun, to open an electricity power box. You are immediately floored with a massive electric shock – but get up and continue on your way to school. Then you collapse. Discovered by passers-by, you are rushed to hospital.

same relentless energy he displays on the mats. his lack of upper limbs does not stop him from driving a car, riding a bike, swimming mountain rivers (“they are fast and cold”) or skiing. He also plants his own vegetables and changes diapers. In the future, he plans to learn to fly helicopters.

Imagine, if you can, that both your arms then become infected from the injuries. The doctors are forced to amputate them - bit by bloody bit - until you have no arms left.

In short, Gazzaev is an impressive man. He minces few words about those who lack the willpower to achieve what he has achieved. “What is most important is the head,” he said. “A lot of people have both arms but cannot help themselves.” In common with many of his countrymen, he has a philosophical side. “If you want to live, you need to move, to keep going,” he mused. “I am just a simple human. Everybody has their own life and they decide themselves for what kind of life it will be.”

Imagine that. Or, if you prefer, ask Spartak Gazzaev, for this was exactly his experience. But if you think that devastating experience caused the Russian lifelong trauma or caused him to give up on life – well, think again. “I got used to it, I kept going: Why feel sorry for yourself?” he asked. “Now I have a wife with zero disability and four kids - my eldest is 19, my youngest is 4 - and I feed the whole family, including uncles and cousins. Nobody works! Only me.” Gazzaev is a three-time world para-taekwondo champion – a remarkable feat for a 42-yearold. Outside the dojang, he lives life with the

Gazzaev has clearly decided to live life to the max. His uncompromising attitude is recognized by his teammates, who have dubbed him “The Russian Grizzly.” “I am from a republic in the mountains, and I rarely smile,” the North Ossetian says (with a smile). “The Russian bear can be very friendly – or he can kill you!” The region he hails from is known for breeding exceptionally hard, determined men: It is

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‘The Russian bear can be very friendly – or he can kill you!’ famed among Russians as the only part of Eurasia which Genghis Khan failed to conquer. Overrun, the ancestors of today’s North Ossetians pulled back into their mountain fastness and fought a guerilla war that even the fearsome Mongolian warriors could not win. Gazzaev’s own combative training commenced in 1990, when he took up karate. After 20 years, he switched styles to taekwondo as he predicted - correctly, as it turned out - that the sport was poised to enter the Paralympic arena. He now holds a 1st dan black belt and has five years of experience. So far, no competitor has stood in his way. He seized his third World Para-Taekwondo Championship gold medal in Samsun where the final match posed few challenges. “It was easy - one breath!’ he said. “I won by 12-point gap.” His favored technique is the 45-degree turning kick to the torso: “When I kick, the body collapses,” he said. A salaried athlete, employed by the Russian government, he is rewarded with bonuses for wins. He also finds the time to run a multi-purpose shop in his home village in North Ossetia and plans to open several more. So what was the driving force that motivated the armless 8-yearold? “If God loves you - if you survive, if you do not die - you must ask ‘Why?’” he mused. “Maybe it is because you need to be

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here, maybe you have some special mission which you must finish before you go. My goal is to grow my kids, to do taekwondo, to show the world that, even if you have no hands, you can still do things.”

Para-Taekwondo Athlete Interviews | RUSSIA

‘I will keep competing and making miracles until I die, so that everyone can watch me and feel that everything is possible. This is my way of life’

Spartak Gazzaev

‘I am just a simple human. Everybody has their own life and they decide for themselves what kind of life it will be’

‘I have a wife with zero disability and four kids - my eldest is 19, my youngest is 4 - and I feed the whole family, including uncles and cousins. Nobody works! Only me’

Now, another “special mission” looms on Gazzaev’s horizon. It is the same one that has been consuming countless para-taekwondo fighters across the world since early this year: To go to Tokyo in 2020. “It is the dream of my life - and not only mine,” he said. “Everybody dreams about the Olympics.” But won’t he be too old – 47! – in 2020 to have a realistic chance of medaling in Tokyo? He scoffed. “It’s better to ask the youngsters. When they reach my age, you can compare!” And Tokyo - which marks taekwondo’s entry onto the Paralympic program - has added significance. “At the beginning, only one person can be the first Olympic champ in history,” he said. “So my name will go down in history.” He has no intention of stopping at Tokyo, either: He aims to be competing at the 2024 Paralympics at the grand old age of 51. Surely, that would be a miracle? “I will keep competing and making miracles until I die, so that everyone can watch me and feel that everything is possible,” he said. “This is my way of life.”

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Para-Taekwondo Athlete Interviews | GREAT BRITAIN

Amy Truesdale

Great Britain’s Amy ‘Kickarse’ Truesdale:

‘It’s about Ability, not Disability’ ‘Don’t think you are different because you have a disability. My ability is stronger than my disability’

For “weekend warriors,” taekwondo is a hobby. For competitive players, it is a demanding sport. And for a precious few, it is an all-consuming passion. You may count GB’s Amy Truesdale among the latter. “I started on February 23, 1997 – of course I remember the date!” she exclaimed when asked how long she has been practicing. “It’s my life! I have an anniversary every year for when I started taekwondo!” Truesdale’s taekwondo journey got underway when her father, an ex-soldier, decided that self-defense would be a useful skill for his daughter to acquire, “given the world we live in.” She fell in love at first sight. “Taekwondo makes you laugh, it makes you cry,” she said. “I could not have a relationship with anyone else – they could not cope with me!” Looking at her taekwondo schedule, one can see why. Take the month of the 2015 World Para-Taekwondo Championships in Samsun, Turkey. On the Saturday prior, she fought in the (able-bodied) British Nationals, taking gold in the -74kg category. On Thursday, she won bronze in Samsun. After flying home on the Friday, she was sched-

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uled to drive to Scotland from her home in Chester over the weekend to take her 2nd dan grading. The following Friday, she planned to fly out to Sochi, Russia, for the IWAS Games. Although she has won the Para-European crown three times in the K44 +58kg division, Truesdale is one of those rare athletes who falls between the “able-bodied” and “para” slots. Her coach Peter Johnson considers her taekwondo’s answer to Oscar Pistorius, the famed South African sprinter who outran both para- and able-bodied athletes. (Johnson added mischievously, “But without the gun!”) “You don’t want to be classed different, you want to be classed the same as able-bodied,” she said. “I am labeled ‘disabled’ now, so I won’t get onto Team GB.” Her favored techniques are high kicks, so she laments that she can’t apply boot to face in para-taekwondo - though she concedes that this simply is not feasible. “Some people have had head injuries, so though I would like to kick to the head (in para-taekwondo), it won’t happen,” she said. “And if you don’t have arms, I don’t agree with having head shots.” While she is a maestro of the head kick – “I am proper flexible!” she said, and proved

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Borrowing one of her father’s army expressions – “train hard, fight easy” – she is fully immersed. Physically resilient and injury free, she has “basically spent the whole year competing in anything I can, any competition.” She works out every day, notably at the gym of coach Peter Johnson, dubbed “Kukki-two” (a wordplay on Seoul’s famous Kukkiwon – or “Kukki-one”). She also has a personal conditioning trainer, and practices yoga, which contributes to her awesome flexibility and balance. When she is not doing taekwondo, she is teaching others to: Her job is teaching the sport in schools. In addition to being physically robust, she is mentally strong willed – a British taekwondo official, on hearing that Truesdale had been nicknamed “Kickarse” by a colleague, rolled his eyes, noting that she is well-known among the GB taekwondo community for her take-no-prisoners attitude. Speaking in a Beatleseque Liverpool brogue, she is also eminently quotable, with a knack for sound bytes. Asked about

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‘Taekwondo makes you laugh, it makes you cry. I could not have a relationship with anyone else – they could not cope with me!’ her disability - she was born without a left hand – she says, “Boring, eh? Everyone else here has been eaten by a shark or something!” She says she does occasionally get negative comments about her disability –“It makes me feel a bit rubbish” – but has recently started wearing a T-shirt, rather than covering her left arm with a jacket or handbag. And that is no bad thing because a T-shirt showcases Truesdale’s athletic physique - the “slim/strong” body of the elite taekwondo player. Alas, her dedication to the sport that has granted her that enviable physique has not done her love life any favors. “She has lost a few boyfriends to taekwondo,” said Johnson. She admits to having a crush on Moldovan taekwondo superstar Aaron Cook, but, when discussing her romantic prospects, laughed them off, saying, “I am 27 now - I am off the shelf!” However, she plans to be fully “on the shelf” in 2020.

Para-Taekwondo Athlete Interviews | GREAT BRITAIN

it by holding a high round kick hovering in the air while the WTF photographer captured it on camera – she describes herself as an all-round athlete and martial artist. “I am versatile, I like the whole thing, not just the fighting,” she said. “I like the poomsae, the leg control, practicing all the technical kicks.”

Amy Truesdale

‘It is super important to me, I would not do anything if I did not do taekwondo. If I am not teaching it, doing it or talking it, I am not doing anything’

She recalls hearing the news about para-taekwondo’s inclusion in the Tokyo Paralympics: A BBC correspondent telephoned her and told her. “I was like, ‘Are you serious?!? Woooaahh!’ Then I went quiet and tried to process it.” Truesdale will be 31 in 2020, but has no worries about making the grade. “For para, if you are a bit older, it is alright,” she said. “There are no head shots, so you are not overstretching.” Competing in the Paralympics would be the ultimate, for taekwondo has Truesdale firmly in its grip. “It is super important to me, I would not do anything if I did not do taekwondo,” she said. “If I am not teaching it, doing it or talking it, I am not doing anything.” With the increasing reach of para-sports, she reckons that anyone disabled can take it up; all that is missing is the will to do so. “Nothing is stopping you doing it - get involved, there is enough of it out there – but don’t think you are different because you have a disability,” she said. “My ability is stronger than my disability.”

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Vika's Gift

WTF president receives ‘most precious’ present from athlete

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TF President Chungwon Choue’s office in the federation’s Seoul is packed with souvenirs, gifts and treasures from world leaders and sports officials. The gifts come from every corner of the world and range from congratulatory plaques to a West Point cavalry sabre - even a family of faux lions. Now, a new and very special gift will take pride of place in this room. That special gift is a rectangular embroidery of hand-stitched flowers, presented to the WTF president on the sidelines of the 6th WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships in Samsun, Turkey, on September 17, 2015. The presenter? None other than

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Ukrainian para-taekwondo wunderkind Vika Marchuk. “It was really touching, it was the first time I have ever received a gift like that,” said Choue, clearly taken aback at the surprise gesture. “How long did it take her to make that?” “I really appreciate Dr. Choue because he did so many things for para-taekwondo,” said the diminutive Ukrainian para-athlete. “He has put so much energy into it.” Having suffered an extraordinarily hard life as a result of her disabilities – she was abandoned as a baby and raised in an orphanage - para-taekwondo has proven a boon to Marchuk. She has won three golds at World Para-Taekwondo Championships, and took silver in Samsun.

As a result of her sporting achievements, she has been given an apartment and a stipend by a grateful government. Making the gift particularly precious is the amount of painstaking work that went into the stitching: Vika has only four fingers on her right hand. Answering Choue’s question as to how long it had taken her to complete the embroidery – which is her hobby - Marchuk said, “About three weeks; some days I did five hours on it, some days, 12 hours.” Remarkably - even though he became WTF president in 2004 – Choue had never received a personal present from an athlete. “I will put it up in my office,” said Choue. “Everyone who comes in, I will say, This is the most prestigious gift I ever received.’”

WTF Instates Para-Taekwondo Governing Board The Para-Taekwondo Governing Board is composed of the following: Mr. Koos Engelbrecht, Chairman, South Africa Dr. Gabriel Fife, Member, USA Dr. David O’Sullivan, Member, Ireland Ms. Terrie Moore, Member, Canada Prof. Fernando Akilian, Member, Argentina Mr. Aleksandr Shlychkov, Member, Russia Mr. Steven Currie, Athlete Member, Australia Mrs. Lisa Standeven, Athlete Member, Canada

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5 Around the WTF

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IOC Head Praises Taekwondo’s Growth and Globalization

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t a round-table discussion on Aug. 19, 2015, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and WTF President Chungwon Choue, together with officials from both organizations, talked over the state of taekwondo, before the IOC head was made an honorary 10th dan black belt in the art. After being greeted at the WTF’s new Seoul headquarters – in a prestigious location just west of the medieval Gyeongbok Palace, and just a few minutes’ walk from the presidential mansion, the Blue House – by an honor guard of uniformed members of the WTF Demonstration Team, Bach was taken upstairs for the talks. “Thank you for visiting us,” Choue said in his welcoming remarks. “On behalf of the ‘taekwondo family’ it is an honor.” “Thanks for the warm welcome,” Bach replied. “You have visited the IOC in Lausanne many times, so this is the first time to visit you.” Bach opened the discussion by commenting on the rising status of taekwondo. “I would like to congratulate you; you have really improved the standing of taekwondo in the world of sport and in the Olympics,” he said. “Change is not always easy internally, so we appreciate it.” The IOC head said that he was impressed by the figures he saw for taekwondo’s growth. “My personal impression from the countries I visit is, when I ask them which is the fastest growing sport in Africa and South America, it is taekwondo,” he said. He added that the sport’s fast growth in Europe seemed linked to immigrants in European nations. He expressed his interest in the sport’s status among female Muslim athletes, and was informed of progress in

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this area. Choue noted that since the WTF had permitted the wearing of the hijab in competition, there had been a huge improvement in the sport’s participation and success rate among female Muslims. On the issue of migrants, Choue briefed Bach on the WTF’s latest initiative. “We intend to have a Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, that will be established in Lausanne,” he said. “We will support people in refugee camps around the world.” The foundation, once established, will dispatch teams of taekwondo instructors into refugee camps – where there is little to do, especially for the children – and teach taekwondo, thus giving refugees a meaningful pastime, improved physical condition and upgraded self-respect. Turning to the upcoming 2016 Olympics, the standard of Brazilian taekwondo was raised. Choue briefed Bach on the upcoming Brazilian Open, and also the use of octagonal mats on Rio – smaller spaces than the square rings used in London 2012, which promote better footwork and more intense action. Bach then turned to the internationalization of taekwondo, a Korea-originated sport. “It is of critical importance for the future of sports to globalize - you have to give access at all points to non-Koreans,” he said. “You have made excellent progress in this area and I hope that, under your leadership, it will continue.” Choue responded that the WTF’s new Secretary General Hoss Rafaty is an Iranian-American, and the Iranian male squad is now“… the number one men’s team- they are too strong!”

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lack Belt for

ACH

IOC head awarded honarary 10th dan

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nternational Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach was made an honorary 10th Dan black belt in the martial art of taekwondo on Aug. 19, 2015, during a visit to the headquarters of the sport’s world governing body. The IOC chief was personally awarded the belt by World Taekwondo Federation President Chungwon Choue. “Thank you very much for the honor of the 10th Dan black belt,” Bach said - adding with a joke, “After I was informed of it, I started practicing!” “There have only been three people in the world awarded the 10th Dan,” Choue said. “Former IOC Presidents Juan Antonio Samaranch and Jacques Rogge, as well as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.” Attired in a taekwondo uniform, Bach then smashed a board with a punch before the awarding ceremony. The IOC president had been greeted at the entrance to the WTF headquarters – opposite the West Gate of Seoul’s medieval Gyeongbok Palace – by uniformed members of the WTF Demonstration Team. He then held a round-table discussion between himself, Choue and officials including IOC Member and Chair of the IOC Coordination Committee for PyeongChang Gunilla Lindberg, IOC Protocol Chief Marina Baramia, IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper as well as WTF Secretary General Hoss Rafaty, WTF Council Member and Russian Taekwondo Union President Anatoly Terekhov and Korean Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Chong Kim. During the meeting, taekwondo’s preparations for the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the spread of taekwondo worldwide and an upcoming initiative by the WTF, the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, which will teach taekwondo at refugee camps, were all discussed.

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Bach was particularly interested in the status of female and Muslim athletes in the sport. In the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series 1, which had concluded in Moscow on August 16, two Muslim female athletes – Turkey’s Nafia Kus and Iran’s Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin– had won gold medals. The IOC president and his delegation were on a two-day visit to Korea. Before their courtesy call to the WTF headquarters, they had met Korean President Park Geun-hye at the nearby presidential residence, the Blue House, to discuss progress on the upcoming 2018 PyeongyChang Winter Olympics.

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:

Black Belt Beauty to Talk up Taekwondo The WTFs newest goodwill ambassador credits taekwondo with developing both her perseverance and her physique - as well as gifting her with the skills needed to overcome some unwelcome attention …

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aekwondo is one of the world’s most physically beautiful sports and now it has won an appropriate endorser: America’s most physically beautiful woman has agreed to promote it. Nia Sanchez is America’s most attractive woman, and that’s official: She was crowned “Miss USA” in 2014. But that is not the reason she was named an official promoter of taekwondo: She also holds a 4th dan black belt in the combat sport, which she has been practicing since age 8. Sanchez, 25, was named a WTF “Goodwill Ambassador” at a ceremony presided over by WTF President Chungwon Choue at the federation’s central Seoul headquarters on July 27, 2015. “I will speak out on behalf of taekwondo and how it has a positive impact on you, whether you are 8 or 80,” she said during a luncheon with WTF executives and taekwondo masters

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after the ceremony. After her whirlwind July tour of Korea - taking in Muju’s Taekwondowon and Seoul’s Kukkiwon, among other locations - Sanchez agreed to appear at the WTF World Grand Prix Finals and the annual Gala Awards in Mexico City. Choue expressed his hope that Sanchez’s endorsement would allow taekwondo to reach a new youth audience beyond the dojang and the competition mats. That looks feasible, for Sanzhez has already put taekwondo on the beauty circuit’s radar. During a Miss USA photo shoot, she demonstrated board breaking in unusual attire for a taekwondo athlete: An evening dress! “It turned out pretty cool,” she said. Now the Sacramento native is moving beyond her beauty queen role and relocating to Los Angeles. In the world’s entertainment capital, she will be expanding her skills portfolio to encompass red carpet event hosting, fronting entertainment shows and acting as an extra in various productions. That kind of ambition demands more than simply a head-turning physical presence. Fortunately, Sanchez has what it takes. “She is not only a good fourth-degree black belt, she speaks so well!” enthused Master Sang-chul Lee, the former U.S. Olympic coach, who invited the beauty queen to address the US Open Taekwondo Hanmadang in Colorado Springs. “I speak at taekwondo tournaments, but I also speak regularly at schools and universities on never giving up on your dreams,” Sanchez explained.

She credits taekwondo with much of her success, gifting her with discipline and self-control. Sanchez stressed that the central taekwondo tenet of perseverance equipped her with the determination to overcome defeat and continue entering beauty pageants before finally being crowned “Miss USA” in 2014. “I tried five times to become ‘Miss USA,’” she mused. “I would not have been a good ‘Miss USA’ at 19, but when I had matured, then I was ready for the job.” Moreover, it was taekwondo which laid the physical foundation on which she built her jaw-dropping physique. “When I was young, all I did as a workout was taekwondo, though when I started pageants, I needed a slightly different body type,” Sanchez said. These days, she hits the gym three-five times a week in addition to “a little taekwondo.” While taekwondo may not quite be the perfect exercise – elite players supplement the sport with gym work for strength and roadwork for cardio – it does offer one of the best overall packages in existence. “It works the entire body, it is a great, well-rounded fitness program,” added Colorado-based instructor Jay-kuk Lee, who, along with his father Sangchul Lee, was accompanying the beauty queen on her Korea trip. “When I do taekwondo, I feel muscles I have not felt in a long time!’ Sanchez said. But taekwondo is not simply a mental/physical exercise regimen, it is also a martial art teaching self-defense techniques. Has Sanchez ever had to call upon her fighting skills in perilous situations? “I have never had to use it in an alley or on the streets, but I have used it in crowded places, like bars,” she said. “Even at ‘Miss USA,’ people get really excited and grab you when they want to take a picture; the escape techniques of taekwondo are really effective!” Alas, there is sad news for romantically inclined taekwondo bucks who might be reading this and wondering if they have might score a date with the WTF’s newest goodwill ambassador: Sanchez is engaged to actor Daniel Booko.

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atharina Choi Nunes, the 2015 Miss World Brazil, was appointed as a goodwill ambassador of the World Taekwondo Federation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 13, 2015. Choi Nunes, 25, was presented with an appointment plague by WTF President Chungwon Choue in a ceremony held at the office of the Brazilian Taekwondo Federation. Choi Nunes is currently practicing taekwondo in Sao Paulo and hopes to become a black-belt holder before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. In her acceptance speech, Choi Nunes expressed her appreciation for being appointed as a goodwill ambassador of the World Taekwondo Federation and committed to promoting taekwondo in Brazil leading up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. WTF President Choue hoped the appointment would help spread taekwondo in Brazil and encourage gender equality in the sport. “Sport presentation and spectator engagement are key objectives of the WTF. She will

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play a great role in this effort, together with the WTF Demonstration Team during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games,” Choue said. In July 2015, the WTF had appointed “2014 Miss USA” Nia Sanchez as a goodwill ambassador. Prior to the appointment ceremony, WTF President Choue met with Carlos Nuzman, president of the Brazil Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Organizing Committee, at the office of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. At the meeting, Nuzman congratulated Choue on his leadership in raising the level of sportive taekwondo. Calling taekwondo “dynamic and fast,” he said it benefitted from well managed refereeing systems and advanced technology. “Taekwondo is doing what other martial arts have not done, and many others are now following the success of taekwondo,” he added. Choue thanked Nuzman for his continued support for taekwondo and committment to the success of the taekwondo competitions at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. “After its great success at the London 2012 Olympic Games, taekwondo has further evolved with positive changes such as the new shape of the competition area, improved gender equality in technical officials and the introduction of electronic headgear,” Choue said.

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WTF Council Convenes in Mexico City, Grants 2016 World Juniors to Burnaby, Canada

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he Canadian city of Burnaby will host the 11th WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships in November 2016. At an extraordinary WTF Council meeting, held at the Camino Real Polanco Hotel in Mexico City, Mexico on Dec. 7, 2015, the WTF Council granted the Canadian city the right to host the 2016 World Junior Taekwondo Championships. The Turkish Taekwondo Federation withdrew its bid for the World Junior Championships at the last minute. Burnaby is set in British Columbia, near Vancouver, and offers a superb lifestyle and a multicultural environment, bidders said during their presentation. In other business, WTF President Chungwon Choue appointed John Walker, chairman of the WTF Marketing Committee,

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WTF treasurer. An investment banker by profession, Walker heads Macquarie Group of Companies, Korea. Two WTF referees modelled provisional new, more colorful uniforms during the meeting. Feedback was given by meeting participants. In a progress report on refereeing issues, the head of the WTF Referee Committee, Chakir Chelbat, suggested the adoption of a new WTF referee ranking system. WTF President Choue presented the “WTF Roadmap 2016” noting that in line with the IOC’s Agenda 2020, the WTF would implement five key visions and 20 objectives. The five visions are good governance; innovation of WTF events; placing athletes at the center of the WTF movement; development through taekwondo; and education and engagement. The

vision was unanimously approved by the Council members. Pan American Taekwondo Union President Ji-ho Choi suggested the introduction of a new event, the WTF President’s Cup International Championships. Choue announced that a joint referee and coach training camp will be held in Muju, Korea in May 2016 in advance of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. Muju is the site of the Taekwondowon, a dedicated taekwondo training facility. A presentation was delivered on the situation and progress of the nascent Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation. The next extraordinary WTF Council meeting will take place in May 2016 in Muju, Korea.

New Council Members of the WTF

WTF, Taekwondo Promotion Foundation Agreement Inked

(From left to right)

John Walker (Treasurer) Chairman, Macquarie Group of Companies, Korea

John Kotsifas (Ex Officio) President, Oceania Taekwondo Union (From left to right)

Hyun-deuk Oh (Ex Officio) Vice President, The Kukkiwon

Koos Engelbrecht (Ex Officio) Chairman, WTF Para-Taekwondo Governing Board

The WTF signed a memorandum of understanding on business cooperation with the Taekwondo Promotion Foundation (TPF) on Aug. 25, 2015 in Muju, Korea. The MOU was inked between WTF President Chungwon Choue and TPF Chairman Sung-tae Kim at the auditorium of the Taekwondowon in Muju on the third day of the 2nd WTF World Cadet Taekwondo Championships. The two sides agreed to cooperate to use the Taekwondowon as a place for various WTF-promoted education and training programs.

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WTF Signs Record-Breaking Global Partnership with Booyoung Group

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he World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) has signed a global partnership agreement with leading Korean construction company Booyoung Group as part of the federation’s ongoing commitment to attracting investment to the sport and ensuring it continues to develop and evolve worldwide. Under the agreement, signed on April 8, 2015, the Booyoung Group will provide the WTF with a record investment of USD 10 million over the next six years in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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Chairman of Booyoung Group Lee, Joong Keun, Ph.D. has been a close friend and highly valued supporter of taekwondo for many years. He has been involved in various taekwondo development programmes aimed at promoting the Olympic values and has actively donated to the creation of taekwondo training centers throughout Southeast Asia. “We are delighted to have entered into this historic partnership with the Booyoung Group,” WTF President Chungwon Choue said after signing the agreement.

“The WTF has had a very successful few years having consolidated taekwondo’s position on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Sports Program and having been included in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. However, there is no room for complacency. We want to continue to evolve and innovate to make our sport better for our athletes and for our fans.” Tokyo 2020 will be the sixth consecutive Olympic Games that taekwondo has been a part of and the WTF has pledged to use the investment to find innovative ways to make the competition more ex-

citing and consolidate its position on the Olympic program. The WTF will also use the investment to expand its para-taekwondo structure among its 206 member associations worldwide. Para-taekwondo has witnessed a steady increase in global participation since it was announced as one of the 22 core sports on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Sports Program by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in January 2015. Under Choue’s leadership, the WTF has worked tirelessly over the last decade to become a truly universal and accessible

sport and gaining entry into the Paralympic Games had been identified as a key objective toward achieving this goal. And with taekwondo’s practitioner base and media profile continuing to rise, Choue vowed to seek further commerical partnerships. “Investment through partnerships, sponsorships and broadcasting deals is vital to our future developmen.” he said. “We are confident in the coming months and years that more companies will look to join the Booyoung Group in becoming WTF global partners.”

Chairman of Booyoung Group Lee, Joong Keun, Ph.D. (third from left) at the signing of the global partnership agreement with WTF President Chungwon Choue.

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‘European Taekwondo Pioneer’ and WTF Vice President Sun Jae Park Passes Away The global taekwondo family is in mourning following news that WTF Vice President Dr. Sun Jae Park has passed away. Dr. Park, ETU honorary president, died in Rome, Italy at 18:30 on February 28, 2016 at the age

of 78. His funeral were held at a cathedral in Rome. “The condolences of the WTF go to the family of Dr. Park, and to the members of the Italian Taekwondo Federation,” said WTF President Chungwon Choue. “Dr. Park was one of great taekwondo pioneers, and he will be greatly missed.” Park was a leader in the world of taekwondo and especially in his home country of Italy. He introduced taekwondo to Italy in 1966 and in Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia) in 1968. He was also a founding member of the

‘Sport for a Better World’ is the Proposed Mission ETU in 1976 and was elected vice president of the ETU at its inaugural General Assembly in 1976. Since then, Park had always been a keen supporter of the ETU and Taekwondo in Europe. Dr. Park was made honorary president of the ETU in 2002. In February 2004, Park was elected acting president of the World Taekwondo Federation, a temporary position he took on following the resignation of Dr. Un-young Kim. He has also served as vice president of the WTF since 2002.

WTF Mourns Passing of ‘Father of Competitive Taekwondo’

WTF, U.N. and sport officials put heads together at International Sport Cooperation conference in Seoul

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n a Seoul conference, WTF President Chungwon Choue laid out the taekwondo body’s latest humanitarian initiative in a presentation lauded by a senior executive of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Under the theme of “Sport for a Better World,” the International Sport Cooperation Center of Korea (ISC) and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) jointly sponsored a conference held in Seoul’s Plaza Hotel on Oct. 26, 2015. The event attracted figures from the fields of sport and development, including the WTF’s Choue, UNHCR Korea Representative Dirk Hebecker and Olympafrica International Foundation CEO Thierno Alassane Diack. After opening remarks by ISC President Lee Eun-chul, WTF President Choue took to the rostrum to deliver the keynote. He first discussed the WTF’s wide experience, global outreach and its previous humanitarian body, the World Taekwondo Peace Corps Foundation. He then introduced the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF), adding further details about the initiative, which he had first revealed publically

in a speech to the UN in New York on Sept. 21, 2015. The nascent foundation is being established in Lausanne, Switzerland, and will begin operations in 2016. Fundraising has already started, with WTF staffers and officials donating seed money. The WTF is designed to dispatch instructors to refugee camps worldwide to teach taekwondo, Olympism and related values. “As a sport, taekwondo will improve the quality of their physical and mental lives, and as an art, it will nourish their spirits.” Choue said. He characterized taekwondo as, “a gift that, once given, can never be taken away. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere, by anybody.” He moved onto timing. “We are wasting no time,” Choue said. “A WTF official based in Saudi Arabia has already carried out a reconnaissance at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.” Pilot programs are planned for that camp, and for a displaced persons’ camp in earthquake-hit Nepal. “Thanks to the WTF’s extensive international networks; thanks to our extensive experience; and thanks to the deployability

of our sport, we are ‘Good to Go,’” Choue declared. The UNHCR’s Hebecker, the second speaker, noted that there are now 60 million refugees worldwide – the highest number recorded since World War II. He went on to discuss the work of the commission. Although the UNHCR has a budget of around US$7 billion, he conceded, “Sport is often the last thing for which funding is made available.” Even so, he noted that sport, “… gives a new motivation to survive and gives hope and creates a sense of normalcy,” as well as giving refugees physical exercise, a sense of direction, team spirit and human dignity. But only 10 percent of refugees have access to sports, he estimated. After showing a film clip of the UNHCR’s “9 Million” campaign, he said, “We have not been able to come up with a new campaign - maybe taekwondo can be the new campaign.” He continued, “With very simple initiatives we can change the lives of many refugee children.” Referring to Choue’s earlier presentation, he said, “Taekwondo is so easy to undertake, it is a ‘new brotherhood’ of spreading hope to refugees.”

2015 WTF-KHU Partnership Taekwondo Training Program WTF President Chungwon Choue poses with participants in the 2015 WTF-KHU Partnership Taekwondo Program for athletes at the WTF Seoul headquarters in Korea on July 9, 2015.

The 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series 1 got off to a somber start in Moscow, Russia as the passing of one of the most important pioneers in the history of sportive taekwondo was announced. Prior to the commencement of the tournament, the assembled athletes, officials and spectators in Moscow’s Dinamo Krylatskoye Gymnasium stood and observed a minute’s silence to mark the death of Grand Master Chong-woo Lee. Lee, who died on Aug. 8, 2015 in Seoul at age 88, was known as a fierce fighter from

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the Jidokwan school of taekwondo, but his real legacy is his central role in the creation of modern sportive taekwondo. “He was the ‘master designer’ of modern taekwondo competition as it exists today,” said WTF Director General Jin-bang Yang, in an address made on the field of play. “He developed modern competition rules and protective equipment.” The electronic protector scoring system, or PSS, was also the brainchild of Lee, who served as the first secretary general of the WTF.

“He contributed to the development of taekwondo very, very much when it was first becoming a sporting event in the 1960s,” said WTF Technical Committee Chairman Kook-hyun Jung, who recalled the awe in which Lee was held by the fighters of that time. “He was very logical and intellectual.” Lee’s funeral was declared an official funeral of the “World Taekwondo Family” for the first time by the WTF, the Kukkiwon, the Korea Taekwondo Association and the Taekwondo Promotion Foundation.

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‘If my athlete loses and the other athlete is better, I don’t care as long as I benefit. A loss without a lesson is a loss. A loss with a lesson is a win’

Belgian Coach Karim Dighou: Punching Above His Weight

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mong the coaches prowling the sidelines of taekwondo’s elite fields of play in 2015, one of the most notable was Karim Dighou. Why so? Because although Dighou does not have the benefit of representing a taekwondo powerhouse like Iran or Korea – he hails from little Belgium – that has not prevented his lads, Jaouad Achab and Si Mohammed Ketbi, from grabbing two quota places for the Rio Summer Games in 2016; he has also coached refugee Raheleh Asemani to the Olympics. Now 45, the Morocco-born Dighou originally got interested in the way of fist and foot at 12, “…because I liked Bruce Lee!” As was the case for so many martial arts aficionados, his parents first enrolled him in taekwondo classes to keep him out of trouble. “I was always getting into fights in school and after making a lot of trouble for my parents, they decided to take me to a taekwondo club,” he recalled. “Then my behavior changed and I was a lot more controlled.” Dighou still practices – but, he wryly admitted, with a bit more difficulty than in his younger years. “Everyday I teach the national team,” he said. “It is hard to practice with them, and I try to do some stuff, but it is not easy!” His first experience of coaching was the

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result of a wipeout in a competition. When he was 19, he and his classmates entered the Belgian Championships. “We all lost in the first round!” he recalled. “I went to my coach and said, ‘Something is wrong, we have to change our training,’ and he said, ‘If you know how to do it, do it – I can’t!’ I said, ‘OK. I will try.’ Dighou went to work, immersing himself in all the material he could find on training methods, techniques, tactics, conditioning and rules: “I researched everything I could get my hands on – video, travelling to other people, going to other schools, going to competitions. Before, I had not had the concept of kyorugi. After the research, it was all clear to me.” Dighou instituted everything he was learning at his club on a trial-and-error basis. Results followed: The following year, his school produced five senior Belgian champions. He himself was a Belgian national champion and a captain of the Flemish team, but never quite became a European or world champion: “Maybe because there were other guys who were too talented,” he said – adding, in a nod to the problem that bedevils all sports, “And it was politically hard, too.” Now an established professional employed by BLOSO, the Flemish government’s sports department, and by the Belgian Olympic Committee, he reels off the list of qualities required by the 21st century coach. “He or she has to be healthy, has to react at the right moment, say the right thing at the right moment and have a very good eye,” he said. “You have to see all body motions very well, you have to understand timing and you have to understand taekwondo.” Off the competition floor, further attributes are required for team training and management. “The most important thing is psychology, to manage the group dynamic – keep them ’happy but hungry,’” he said. “And you have to know the players – everybody has their own character.” Obviously, fairness is critical in coaching. “I cannot pick on someone, I don’t have favorites;

all my team are my students,” Dighou said. So is toughness. “I am very good with my team, but I can be very hard too,” he added. Asked to describe himself as a coach, Dighou dropped into self-critique mode. “Sometimes I react very much in the moment,” he mused. After thinking, he added some philosophical insight: “If my athlete loses and the other athlete is better, I don’t care as long as I benefit,” he said. “A loss without a lesson is a loss. A loss with a lesson is a win.” In Belgium, the talent pool at Dighou’s disposal is limited. “We live in a small country, we do not have the pick of 10,000 athletes,” he said. “I have to do what I can with the people I have.” Given this limitation, three Rio quota places suggest Dighou has punched above his weight. “We are a small country but we have had some good results,” he said. One benefit to being a small country is that it is easy to scour the land for future stars. “Our talent detection starts very early, we have to see if they have potential at a young age,” Dighou said. “If we see it and he or she wants it, we try to get them into the system.” Two taekwondo athletes are currently paid monthly stipends by the Belgian sport authorities. The system includes sport-specific schools, but Dighou admits that with taekwondo being a low-profile sport, it is difficult to convince young people to take that step. “I try to encourage them and get them in, but it is not easy, they have to make hard decisions – like moving house, or going to live in a dormitory,” he said. “I am talking about children of 13 years.” Raising the sport’s profile and winning more (and richer) corporate sponsorships is a major challenge for taekwondo in the future. “We have to be more professional in everything, and in planning for the year,” he said. “It is difficult to get sponsors if we do not have a clear plan, we need to have a manual to give to potential sponsors.” Like every WTF athlete and official, Dighou has strong opinions on the state of the game. “Taekwondo has changed a lot and some-

time it changes too fast but it is getting better and better,” he said. “I would like to have one system so we can perfect it – now it is change all the time.” He praised the shorter rounds and reduced field of play which have made combats more intense. He also mentioned the evolving state of PSS electronics, but concedes that there are still bugs in the system. “Sometimes we have technical problems, but I know it took fencing 10 to 15 years to have a perfect system,” he said. “I think we can do better, but it takes time.” With taekwondo techniques evolving alongside the PSS and the rule changes, there are inevitably issues. “Taekwondo is a very exciting sport,” he said. “We have a sport with great potential so we have to find the right formula to get what we deserve.” While the WTF Grand Prix series has raised the bar for competition operation and athletic elitism, there is a downside to the rigorous schedule. “I don’t like airplanes – travel is very hard!” Dighou said. “It breaks the training rhythm, so we have to be very creative; to get the players in shape is not easy. Competition is now part of the training!” Like everyone in top-rank taekwondo, Dighou is focused on Rio. In the upcoming months, he will be strategizing with his sports director, Laurence Rase, a former Athens Olympian and European champion, to come up with the perfect plan – training, competing and analyzing opposition. And the Olympics are the summit for any sports coach. “I am very happy to be part of this Olympic journey,” he said. “As this is the first time for me as a coach, it is a dream come true.” Having delivered two Olympic taekwondo spots for Belgium, is he satisfied? Apparently not. “I am ambitious,” he said. ” And that ambition extends beyond Rio de Janeiro. “I hope to do one more Olympic cycle – maybe two,” he said. “For me, success is when you have the potential to do something and you do it: You get the maximum out of it.”

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New WTF Technical Committee Chairman Kook-hyun Jung:

MASTER MISSION WITH A

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e have all met them. They are the “armchair masters” of taekwondo: self-important men with inflated egos who demand deference from those of lower rank, but whose far-fromtoned physiques indicate that they long ago gave up the practice of the art they claim to have mastered. Kook-hyun Jung of Korea is not one of these men. The former four-time world champion and current professor of sport combines the manners of a prince – he bows lower than those he is greeting – with an upbeat outlook – he flashes a ready grin and sports an informal style. And when you feel the grip in his handshake and see the bounce in his stride, you know that here is a man who is fit; a man who, despite his 54 years, has never quit training. Now, as the new chairman of the WTF’s Technical Committee, he wants to steer sportive taekwondo back in time toward a more combative format, to its more martial roots. He made his debut as the new committee chairman at the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series 1 in Moscow, Russia in August. Jung grew up in Jeolla-do, the southwestern Korean province famed for its pungent cuisine, cheery attitudes and hardy men. Remarkably - given his later stellar competitive career in taekwondo - he was a reluctant convert to the way of foot and fist. At middle school, he was a keen volleyball player when, one day, his coach lined

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up his players by height and cut the line in half. Those on the tall side of the line made the team; those on the short side were dismissed. Jung fell into the latter category. That event prodded him toward a different sport – taekwondo. “It was a good decision by my teacher,” Jung reminisced, laughing. Even so, he was hardly super keen. Less than a year after getting started, he was attracted to a new sport – wrestling. Only after his wrestling coach unexpectedly relocated to another school did Jung return to taekwondo and persevere with it. “So many things are needed to be a good player: good physique and good techniques,” he said. “But it is also intellectual: You have to understand the training, you have to understand the referees’ approach.” Before long, Jung discovered he had a fearsome talent - one that some of the older coaches and officials on the WTF competition sidelines still talk about to this day. Assessing his personal strengths as a fighter, he cites extreme physical fitness (which he maintains to this day) and explosiveness: “It is not simply muscle power, it is power through the neuro-muscular system – sudden power, all in one moment!” He also considers spirit of premium value. “Part of it came from my parents, part of it came from my own power,” he said. The rest is history. Jung won the world championships in 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1987 and seized an Olympic gold in Seoul in 1988 - that pivotal year which was the “coming-out party” for the newly prosperous, newly democratized South Korea, as well as

for its national sport. Even so, his memories of 1988 are bittersweet. “I never thought I could compete in the Olympics in a taekwondo event, I will never forget that, it was an honor,” he recalled. “But at that time taekwondo was just a demonstration sport, not a program sport and in Korea, the government, the media none of them were that interested.” The “trembling shock,” KO-focused taekwondo of those days was a rougher art than its modern cousin and Jung believes it has lost something in the process. “Some changes have been good, some have been bad,” he said. “But frankly, I prefer my generation’s competition: It had more power, it was a more serious game!” He stands up and adopts a combat stance to demonstrate how today’s taekwondo is less ambidextrous than yesterday’s. “Now it is only the front leg - 80 percent of it is front leg kicking!” he said. “Biomechanically, this is wrong: It should be the whole body, the center of gravity has to move.”He leans backward with his torso, showing how, in this stance, only the front foot can be used to fire short jabs. While jackhammer push kicks may jam the opponent’s forward motion and rack up points on the body protector, fighting on the back foot is a no-no in virtually any contact sport as it erodes power generation. Moreover, a rear-weighted, backward leaning stance obviates many of taekwondo’s signature spinning kicks. He acknowledges that, with the Summer Olympics upcoming, there is little that

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‘Now it is only the front leg - 80 percent of it is front leg kicking! This is wrong. It should be the whole body, the center of gravity has to move’

‘Before an opening ceremony they have to introduce the best players, and the former best players. The WTF has to make a story around our players for the media’

‘I tell my students, “Until I die, if I can walk, I will still be kicking!”’

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can be done between now and summer 2016. However, he does think that by removing the sensors from the sole of the foot, front-leg push-kicks will become less prevalent. He also plans to canvas opinion from across the global taekwondo family. “I want to listen rather than speak,” he said. Post-Rio, he plans significant changes. “I want it to be more like a martial sport,” he said. Physically, Jung is a walking advertisement for taekwondo. He plays golf and badminton. He runs, lifts weights, conditions his core and is constantly stretching: “Whenever I sit on the floor I stretch out; I think that as you get older, you need to practice flexibility.” He practices taekwondo two to three mornings a week, and as a professor at Korea National Sport University in southern Seoul, kicks the paddle, shield and heavy bag, demonstrating to his students the full technical repertoire that made him a repeat champion. “I tell my students, ‘Until I die, if I can walk, I will still be kicking.” Although Korea is the birthplace of taekwondo, he says the nation’s frenetic modern culture explains why so many practitioners quit in their 30s or 40s. “Because of social factors like job and family and because after work, you have to go out eating and drinking,” he said. “People in their 60s recognize that exercise is very important and then they

start, but then it may be too late.” One issue that particularly exercises his mind is how to incubate taekwondo stars with brand visibility and media potential outside the dojang or competition arena. He also thinks the sports’ governing body needs to do more to honor current and former stars to raise the players’ profiles. “Before an opening ceremony they have to introduce the best players, and the former best players,” he said. “The WTF has to make a story around our players for the media.” Star athletes inspire people to sign up at a taekwondo class and strap on a white belt he said, citing Turkish Olympic gold medalist Servet “The Cheetah” Tazegul as the kind of spinning, leaping, high-kicking fighter who can capture the public imagination. This thought brings Jung back to the vexed technical nature of the sport at present. “The WTF has to create a scenario where athletes will use the best techniques,” he said. “With a little bit more powerful technique, rather than touch contact, spectators would like the game.” He makes a final invitation. “Many coaches and athletes have good ideas to develop taekwondo,” he said. “If you have an idea, call me or send me a message.” So watch this space. With your input, postRio taekwondo is going to change. Part 5 | Around the WTF

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WEST POINT LOOKS EAST: TAEKWONDO AT THE U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY

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n a battlefield swept by the fearsome killing force of automatic weapons, high explosives and laser-guided airpower, empty handed martial arts have minimal combative utility. This obvious reality, however, does not make taekwondo a redundant skill for a 21st century soldier. How so? Ask cadets at the United States’ premier military academy, West Point. “Because we are soldiers, taekwondo translates pretty well – it is like one-onone combat, or one country versus another country,” said West Point Cadet Anthony Chargualaf. “And it teaches determination; how to persevere through the pain.” “We have a warrior ethos in the U.S. Army – ‘Leave no man behind,’” Cadet Jacqueline Parker said. “If you are a in a fight, you have to be the last one standing: that translates into the warrior ethos.” “Techniques are not the sum, you have to have that aggressive mindset,” added Cadet Zewei Peng. “A lot of it is about being more aggressive than the opponent.” The three members of the West Point Taekwondo Club were part of a 20-person contingent, including 13 cadets, led by the academy’s head coach, Master Ji-ho Choi,

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president of the Pan American Taekwondo Union. The delegation, who visited Korea on July 28, 2015 for a nine-day run, were undertaking their first-ever tour of Korea. Stopovers – sponsored by the Korean Cultural Service in New York - included taekwondo hot spots Kyung Hee University in Suwon and Taekwondowon in Muju. The contingent was also lunched on Aug. 5 by WTF President Chungwon Choue, who was presented with a ceremonial saber by the visitors. All West Point cadets are required to take an elective sport during their term at the academy. Many current members of the 30-strong club had previous taekwondo experience. “Most of us had background in it before attending West Point, now we are all friends on the team,” said Cadet Anthony Markov. “The inter-collegiate league (which West Point competes in) is very competitive, and all of us, from beginners to black belts, take lots of trips. West Point taekwondo is one family: One team! One fight!” While a martial art is particularly appropriate exercise for martial men and martial women, taekwondo also synchs with the

U.S. Army‘s combatives program, which stresses grappling. “Taekwondo helps with spacing, with distancing,” said Cadet Havin Na. “Even with combatives, you have to have that feel for distance.” “They are complimentary,” said Major Greg Bow, West Point’s current taekwondo team captain and day-to-day coach. “If you can handle multiple ranges - with taekwondo (kicking), boxing (punching) and combatives (grappling) – you are a complete fighter.” Taekwondo’s history at West Point dates back to 2001. “That spring, some West Point cadets were competing in the Ivy League taekwondo competition and they got their asses kicked,” said Choi, who was at that time coaching the Princeton University team. “I said to them, ‘If you need a little help, I can give you a special class,’ and a week later, this sergeant phoned me and invited me to visit, so I said, ‘Alright.’” At that time, West Point’s martial arts club was an informal structure, with different stylists practicing together without formal coaching or curriculum. Choi absorbed the students of other martial arts, like karate, and got the club underway. His coaching paid off. In 2003, at the U.S. National Collegiate Championships in Puerto Rico, West Point won fifth place overall. Then-superintendent of West Point, General William Lennox, was enthused, Choi recalled. “He had been in U.S. Forces Korea in 1988 during the Seoul Olympics and had seen the taekwondo demonstration,” Choi said. That now-iconic demonstration, the highlight of the Olympic opening ceremony, had been performed by serving Korean troops. “He asked if we could teach taekwondo to all cadets, and have a mass taekwondo demonstration on the West Point parade ground!” At that time, judo was the official martial art in the U.S. Army, so that plan came to naught – to Lennox’s disgust. Even so, the West Point Taekwondo Club went from strength to strength. Choi, who still teaches students at Princeton as well as everyday citizens at his personal taekwondo academy, reckons that

West Point cadets make near-perfect taekwondo athletes. “West Point cadets already have discipline and their physical condition is superior - far superior! - to most other students in the United States, so instructing them is so

Choi – who teaches at West Point free of charge – confesses to special feelings for the cadet students, who, he knows, could be walking into the flames almost immediately after their graduations. “The former taekwondo team captain,

much easier,” he said. “They absorb much faster, which is why taekwondo at West Point has moved so fast to become prominent among university groups.”

Sal Corma was a little guy, but a prominent leader,” Choi recalled. Corma was killed by booby trap while leading a search party in Afghanistan; Choi joined former West

Point taekwondo students to mourn at Corma’s funeral. “When they graduate, I have that happy-sad moment, I hear, ‘My life no longer belongs to me, but to the U.S. government,’” Choi said. “That is what makes me value these kids more than any other students.” The sometimes bloody reality of their chosen profession is crystal clear to the cadets themselves. In Seoul, they visited the Korea Military Academy where their first stop was at the memorial plaque to the West Point class of 1950, which was decimated during the 1950-53 Korean War – a war that never officially ended, and which the United States and South Korea may, one day, have to refight as allies. The cadets held a one-minute vigil of silence. “We feel that connection,” said Cadet Marco Aveledo Quijada. “We understand what we may be called to do.”

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Moldovan Prime Minister Pledges to Promote Taekwondo Across Nation

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he Republic of Moldova will strategically promote the Olympic sport of taekwondo nationwide, the

country’s prime minister and sports minister pledged. In a meeting on Aug. 14, 2015 in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau attended by Moldovan Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet,

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Moldovan Youth and Sports Minister Loretta Handrabura, WTF President Chungwon Choue and Moldovan Taekwondo Federation President Igor Iuzefovici, Premier Strelet said he was committed to opening a WTF Regional Training Center by 2018. The facility would be the first dedicated sport academy in the nation, Handrabura added. At a subsequent press conference, also in Chisinau, Handrabura announced that taekwondo would become an optional sport in elementary schools nationwide and expressed Moldova’s interest in hosting one of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix series events in 2016. Iuzefovici, a strong patron of taekwondo in Moldova, stated that the center would serve as an excellent training hub for neighboring countries as Moldova, at the heart of Eastern Europe, is easily accessible. “I was deeply gratified to hear of Moldova’s ambitious plans for taekwondo

from the prime minister and sports minister,” said Choue, who flew into Moldova on the first day of the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series 1 in Moscow for the meetings. “The WTF stands ready to fully support these ambitious programs, which have the potential to propel Moldova forward as a regional force in taekwondo,” Choue added. In a kick-start to its taekwondo offensive, Moldova has already secured the services of one of taekwondo’s most prominent athletes. With the sponsorship of Iuzefovici, Aaron Cook, formerly of Team GB and the Isle of Man, adopted Moldovan citizenship in 2015. The world-ranked number two in the highly competitive men’s -80kg division, Cook has since been representing the country and has won a quota place for Rio 2016. If successful on the mats in Rio, Cook would deliver Moldova’s first-ever Olympic medal.

home, fearing to sleep upstairs – is more concerned with the degraded health of the Nepalese population. The earthquake has left countless physical and mental casualties in its wake, he noted. “They need rehabilitation programs,” he said. This is where the WTF comes in. During Gurung’s visit to the WTF headquarters on October 27, 2015, WTF President Chungwon Choue said that the WTF will dispatch help to Nepal. The federation’s Nepalese activities

are designed to act as a pilot program teaching taekwondo and related skills to refugees and displaced persons. “If a humanitarian group goes and teaches taekwondo, it will be very good for moral support,” said Gurung, whose Nepalese instructors will work alongside the humanitarian team. Beyond that, the Nepalese Taekwondo Association is planning an iconic event to prove that their national spirit has not been broken. “Nepal is a mountainous country and we want to hold a symbolic event,” Gurung said. “This will symbolize that taekwondo people are strong and disciplined, with

stamina, strength and power.” The event, a poomsae championship, will take place on the slopes of Mount Annapurna. Competitors, in partnership with invited Alpine athletes from around the world, will trek up to the site. There, the championship will take place against one of the world’s most awesome backdrops: the mighty sweep of the Himalayas. In addition to symbolizing the Nepalese spirit, the “Adventure Taekwondo Championships” will send a positive message to the world, Gurung said: “That Nepal is a good destination for tourism and sport.” The championship will also provide an effective showcase for taekwondo at a time when the country is planning to designate a national sport. In 2014, taekwondo was added to primary and secondary educational curricula as an optional subject. Parliament has now shortlisted three sports – taekwondo, cricket and volleyball – as a potential national sport. A decision is anticipated at some time in 2016. Sport can be an effective vehicle for disaster recovery and rehabilitation as Nepal seeks to overcome the traumas of the earthquake. “Sport offers many things,” Gurung said. “It gives us unity, it gives us discipline and passion and relations with other countries.” Naturally, Gurung and his association are doing all they can to make sure that the sport chosen is taekwondo. “Taekwondo is a well disciplined sport, it’s an individual sport, it’s a way of life,” said Gurung. “It is educational also. That is why we hope to do this.”

Part 5 | Around the WTF

WTF Member National Associations

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n the wake of the devastating earthquakes of 2015, Nepal is leveraging taekwondo as it rises from the rubble of calamity In spring 2015, Nepal was rocked by one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in recent history. The mountainous nation shook from 300 aftershocks. Much housing and infrastructure was reduced to ruins. Over 9,000 Nepalese lay dead. Many, traumatized, remain in despair. “This earthquake was a very devastating moment for us,” said Deep Raj Gurung, 58. “People are suffering badly, living in camps and homeless; the government is trying to help, but they are big numbers.” Yet, amid this landscape of destruction, hope is rising. One sign of Nepalese resurgence is the country’s new national taekwondo training center. Gurung, an 8th dan black belt with 36 years of experience in taekwondo, is the secretary general of the Nepalese Taekwondo Association, which will be responsible for the new center. It will open in two phases. The first phase will open in the latter half of 2016; the second phase will be complete in April 2017. The decision to create the center was made two years before the earthquake struck and naturally, that impacted the construction plan. The center was downgraded from eight stories to three stories. Even so, the center will encompass two fields of play; seating for 1,000 spectators; a training hall; and office facilities. A neighboring building is to house a cafe, boarding facilities, and a gymnasium. But the center represents physical infrastructure. Gurung– whose own family reside largely on the ground floor of their

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WTF Member National Associations

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Nepal: Broken Country, Unbroken Spirit

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As World’s Youngest Country Gets to its Feet, Taekwondo Has Foot in Door South Sudan faces multiple challenges as it establishes itself in international society, but there is progress. And on the sporting front, taekwondo has led the country’s charge into the Olympic movement

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“Major Kim came out of the compound, and I collected 20 people in this empty space, with no roof,” he recalled. That was the beginning of the new nation’s taekwondo story. The former businessman is now a semi-permanent resident; he has been given the honorary nickname “Juba” by grateful South Sudanese. “I have retired from business, but I could not leave the country,“ he said. “Their situation was like Korea 60 years ago - too many orphans, too many child beggars.” He started teaching himself - and the word is spreading. “Lots of people come everyday. They had no uniforms, often no jobs. I give them simple food – biscuits and water.” He estimates that about 250 children and around 100 adults are now practicing. “If we collect all these people, taekwondo will give them courage, and it is also kind of fun,” he said. For a country like South Sudan – where, Kim notes, even footballs are rare commodities - taekwondo may be the perfect sport: It requires no equipment, no special court or playing field, just the human body. “Teaching taekwondo to these children is very happy to me,” he said. Taekwondo

is also a sport that is ideally suited to the South Sudanese physique. The tall, lean Africans have ideal bodies for a discipline that emphasizes high kicks. Soon, the sport may get a boost from officialdom. South Sudan’s army, police and presidential guard are discussing the adoption of taekwondo classes; in the police academy it is likely to become a mandatory subject, Kim said, adding, “If we get a taekwondo coach, he will be very busy!” Getting a coach is the challenge. A 5th-dan from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum has relocated to South Sudan to teach, but due to his age, his activities are limited. In 2013, the WTF dispatched a supply of dobok, and the same year a four-person Taekwondo Peace Corps team deployed to the country for a six-week coaching visit, teaching basics, poomsae and even taekwondo dance. That visit generated huge publicity, including spots on the national broadcaster. But it was only for six weeks, which raises questions over sustainability. Kim himself is a red belt in taekwondo, having learned it during his national service in the Korean army; he teaches, but admits

tion. 2015 marked the first year that South Sudanese taekwondo athletes competed beyond their own borders. While the young and inexperienced team failed to medal at the Pan-African Games in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they did win two bronz-

ambitious than the Olympics: He would like to see a South Sudanese taekwondo team take on a team from the rebels who are fighting the Juba government. “That is my dream,” he said. “The rebels have children too.”

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is retired Korean businessman Kee-chon “Casey” Kim, 65. The Korean native first travelled to the Middle East as a staffer at Hyundai Construction in 1978, living and working in Saudi Arabia. He later left Hyundai and moved onto the periphery of the sports field, becoming an entrepreneur producing souvenirs and merchandize for the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee. He subsequently got involved in taekwondo uniform supply. It was in that capacity that he first visited Sudan in 1988, relocating to Khartoum in 2005. He was shocked at conditions. “I could not believe human beings could live like that,” he recalled. “There were no schools, no roads, no medical care.” He moved to South Sudan when it split away from Sudan, working with a range of NGOs helping get the country onto its feet. In 2011, a Korean Army engineering unit was deployed to South Sudan on a UN nation-building mandate. Major Kim Sungsu, a taekwondo 6-dan, offered time after his official duties were over each day to teach the locals taekwondo. Casey Kim arranged a group of people to train with him.

es at the Chuncheon Open. There are plenty of challenges ahead. Kim was recently in Seoul to discuss having another WTF Taekwondo Peace Corps Team and a Kukkiwon instructor deploy to the nation. While both the TPC and the Kukkiwon were receptive to the idea, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs classifies South Sudan as a high-risk country, preventing Korean passport holders from visiting. Kim, who insists that conditions are safe, disagrees. “The coaches can stay in my home, I will feed them and the South Sudanese government will protect them,” Kim said. “This coach dispatch is very important for taekwondo’s development in South Sudan.” He hopes for a positive result when he appeals to the MOFA again in January. In the meantime, there is work to do. Could a South Sudanese player make it to Rio? “We dream of going to the regional qualifications in Morocco in February,” Kim said. In fact, his ambitions for taekwondo’s role in the infant country are even more WTF Member National Associations

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outh Sudan, the world’s youngest country, was born in the fires of war. But even in this infant nation, taekwondo is taking root. From 1955-1972, and then from 19832005, two civil wars raged across the territory of Sudan. Some 2.5 million people in the northeastern African republic were killed; millions more were displaced; human rights violations were horrific and commonplace. Finally, a comprehensive peace agreement was signed in 2005. Subsequently, after a referendum in which nearly 99 percent of the population in the south voted for independence, South Sudan split away from Sudan proper, becoming a nation state with its capital in Juba in 2011. Still, the slaughter is not yet over: South Sudan faces armed insurrections on various parts of its territory. And in addition to these security issues, it faces a mountain of challenges, from infrastructure construction to poverty eradication. Amid this landscape of destruction and reconstruction, of despair and hope, there is taekwondo. The driving force behind the sport’s development in South Sudan

that he is not an ideal coach. His activities have had more impact on the communications and organizational fronts. In 2015, Kim registered South Sudan with the WTF – the first sport in South Sudan to become a member of an International Olympic Committee International Federation. He and football coach Kim Hung-sae (no relation) – a missionary who live in Kim’s house – discussed how to register the country with the International Olympic Committee. In order to win IOC recognition, five sports are required to be registered with their respective international federations. In fact, South Sudan would go on to register seven sports: athletics, baseball, basketball, football, handball, table tennis and taekwondo. Moreover, volleyball’s registration is pending. In June 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, South Sudan was approved as the latest member of the IOC. Kim now sits as an executive committee member on South Sudan’s National Olympic Committee. He is also the president of the South Sudanese Taekwondo Federa-

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Trouble in Paradise: Is Taekwondo the Solution?

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It is the juvenile violence problem facing Tonga that may grant taekwondo to a sudden leap in prominence. Tokolahi and his master, Yoon-pil Baik, are in talks with Tonga’s Minister of Sport – who happens to be Tokolahi’s cousin – to introduce taekwondo into the curriculum of all primary schools across the island. That would upgrade children’s discipline while also giving them an outlet for their youthful energies.

And the timing is right, for in 2019, Tonga hosts the South Pacific Games, a huge event for the little island kingdom. As all stadia are currently being renovated in preparation for the Games, there are few dojang for students to practice in. Space in schools would solve that problem. Baik himself is a key figure in the history and development of taekwondo Tonga. A 7th dan black belt, the 75-year-old (who looks 30 years younger) started taekwondo in Korea in 1956. He relocated to Tonga in 1996 as a pastor, and has taken an active role in expanding the sport’s practitioner base and formalizing its administration.

The Tonga National Taekwondo Federation was affiliated with the WTF in 2001 and Baik, with significant support from New Zealand taekwondo authorities, helped incorporate five more territories – Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and Micronesia – into the Oceania Taekwondo Union. Now, with the proposed in-school program offering massive potential to both cut youth violence and breed a new generation of Tongan athletes in the run up to the 2019 Pacific Games, it looks as if the stars are aligned for taekwondo in the kingdom. But however promising that program might be, there is a shortage of everything taekwondo-related. “We need mats, we need equipment, we need dobok,” Baik said, pleading for WTF support. In addition to Tonga’s material shortfall, there is a lack of human resources. Both Baik and Tokolahi hope that the WTF will be able to arrange for Korean instructors to be dispatched to Tonga and its neighboring islands. “Tuvalu had a Taekwondo Peace Corps instructor,” Tokolahi said. “But he stayed for less than two months.” Rugby is the most popular sport in Tonga, but taekwondo’s profile around the South Pacific has been raised thanks to its Olympic status. And it is in relation to the upcoming 2016 Olympics that the veteran master makes one last plea to the WTF. “It is really, very difficult for athletes from the South Pacific to qualify for the Olympics,” Baik said. “So I really hope we can get a wild card for Rio.” In fact, at the Oceania Qualification Tournament for the Rio Olympics, a Tongan athlete won Tonga’s first-ever Olympic taekwondo slot.

people who want to establish a new program,” he said. “Sometimes you have ‘old dogs’ and they expect more than we can give, but young people like to train hard and do new things.” He joked, “In Puerto Rico, we do not have any Korean masters so they can marry a Puerto Rican girl and stay!” The program is expected to begin in 2017 as a certification option in the Sports Department before becoming a degree course. Once it gets underway, Arroya and Avecedo anticipate students coming from elsewhere

in the region, such as Dominica and the Virgin Islands, as well as from Puerto Rico. In addition, the university is offering two scholarships, each of US$50,000 for Koreans who want to undertake four-year degree programs. Then there is the issue of the poomsae upgrade. “We look forward to an exchange of professors to go to Puerto Rico and develop poomsae,” said Arroyo during a visit to the WTF offices. “We are very familiar with kyorugi techniques and coaches, our problem is we do not have so many millions of people and poomse was not an official event, so we have the problem that we did not have any funding for this program,” he continued. “But now the WTF has appointed poomsae for the Pan American Games in Lima in 2019

– the first time at a continental tournament - and that opens a window for funding from the Puerto Rico National Olympic Committee.” As a stop-gap before the academic program opens, Arroyo hopes for visits from expert instructions supplied by the Taekwondo Peace Corps. “We have already had two Peace Corps missions, but each time it was only three months, so we have asked President Choue for six months and he said it was possible,” he said. “We hope to get poomsae, kyorugi and some Korean language. They tell me this will be this summer. “ To bring his squad up to scratch, Arroyo insists on having a Korean coach. “We are looking to hire a poomsae instructor from Korea and set up a team - well, we have a team already, but we need to upgrade it,” he said. “We can go to the International Olympic Committee and say we are preparing for 2019 so that we can have funding; this will start this year.” Again, as a stop gap, the Puerto Ricans are sending local coaches to train on poomsae seminars with Korean masters in the USA, as well as dispatching instructors to the annual Kyung Hee University Summer Program. However, he recognizes the need for full timers – and for doers as well as teachers. “The thing is, when you teach poomsae, it is not just what you know, it is how you perform,” he said. “Students follow you, so you can have knowledge, but if you cannot perform correctly, you cannot show it.” So the plan proceeds. Given the strategy, taekwondo’s future in Puerto Rico could be as bright as the Caribbean sun. “We look forward to having more conversations with the WTF and the Kukkiwon and all authorities of taekwondo,” he finished. “Having educational programs will help us a lot for the development of the sport.”

Part 5 | Around the WTF

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WTF Member National Associations

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t consists of 177 islands scattered over the surface of the South Pacific. With a population of just 103,000 people, there is more than enough sun, sand and sea for all. Given these natural blessings, the Kingdom of Tonga may sound like a slice of heaven. But there is trouble in paradise. “The biggest social problem now is fighting – fighting in the schools,” said Kuata Tokolahi, a 41-year-old Tongan with the physique of a pro-wrestler, a shaven skull and a pair of calloused knuckles. “So many fights!” Fortunately, a solution may be at hand: the way of foot and fist. “The good point of taekwondo is discipline,” Tokolahi - who, despite his formidable appearance, combines the meekness of a mouse with the manners of a prince – continued. “Self control! Cool every day! If someone attacks - you calm it down!” It may seem paradoxical that a martial art and combat sport can be a solution to juvenile violence, but Tokolahi knows whereof he speaks. An ex-sumo wrestler and taekwondo 3rd dan black belt, he is a former police officer who currently operates a 48-man security and executive bodyguard business, Tiger Protection. As an example of taekwondo’s efficacy as a counter-violence agent, he cites his 14-year-old son. “He is a junior black belt and everyone in his school, from the principal to his teacher, likes him because of his discipline,” he said. “Every day, he does not fight.” Currently, however, taekwondo has low visibility across the kingdom: The sport’s population is approximately 300, one third of whom are black belts, and a handful of small dojang.

K

orean taekwondo masters and academics: Are you seeking a future on a sun-kissed island set in the sparkling Caribbean? Are you enticed by the possibility of marrying a local beauty? If so, then the Puerto Rico Taekwondo Federation wants to hear from you. In return, all you have to do is establish and teach an academic program in the nation’s main university and/or upgrade the island’s skills in poomsae. On a recent mission to Korea, Puerto Rico Taekwondo Federation President Louis Arroyo and Federation General Manager Tony Avecedo sought to build links with taekwondo academia on the sport’s home turf, and lay the groundwork for a stronger poomsae squad. Their strategy to upgrade the sport in the U.S. territory is based on establishing an academic program that will become the Caribbean’s hub for taekwondo excellence. Taekwondo on the island dates back to 1968; today, the federation has around 10,000 practitioners under its wing. The island boasts Junior World Champion Myrllam Vargas, and World Cadet Championship medalist Isabella Diaz. Among Puerto Rico’s senior players, Crystal Weeks is an Olympic qualification hopeful, while Luis Colon took fifth place at the World Championsips in Chelyabinsk and bronze at the Pan American Games in Toronto. Looking ahead, the island’s taekwondo leaders have bigger plans. Prior to establishing taekwondo as an option at Central University of Puerto Rico, Arroyo and Avecedo are in discussions with Korea’s most famous institutes of higher learning for taekwondo – Kyung Hee University, Yong In University and Korea National Sport University - to consult on curriculum development and faculty hire. “We hope we will be able to hire young

PUERTO RICO

School violence is Tonga’s biggest social problem. Now, an ex-police officer and a taekwondo master plan to simultaneously solve this problem and massively expand taekwondo’s population across the South Pacific kingdom

Puerto Rico Seeks to Become Caribbean Taekwondo Hub with University Program

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기본형

오세아니아태권도연맹 oceania taekwondo union

CONTINENTAL UNIONS

MESSAGES FROM THE

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AFTU

ATU

ETU

OTU

PATU

Gen. Ahmed Fouly

Kyu-seok Lee

Athanasios Pragalos

John Kotsifas

Ji-ho Choi

President, African Taekwondo Union

President, Asian Taekwondo Union

President, European Taekwondo Union

President, Oceania Taekwondo Union

President, Pan American Taekwondo Union

First, I applaud all our MNAs on the extreme efforts they have exerted. Looking back on 2015, the first item was the launch of the pilot program of the World Taekwondo Federation in Jordan. This organization sends a positive and powerful message to the world and to each other: We represent a truly great sport. Another development was the WTF’s Continental Union constitution, which is currently being drafted. In addition, a complete restructuring of the WTF office was implemented and the WTF website underwent a complete makeover. Extensive work was also invested in the GMS global license project, with easy-to-follow registration guidelines in eight languages. These are just a few of many achievements of the WTF last year. Turning to the AFTU and our own achievements: We successfully organized the 2nd Luxor Open 2015, the 1st AFTU Open 2015 and the highlight of last year’s events - the All African Games, in Brazzaville, Congo in September 2015. These Games had the highest number of participating countries ever - 26 - as well as the largest ever number of participating athletes - 245. Moreover, Africa won three tickets to Rio through the 2015 Grand Prix series. Cote d’Ivoire qualified with one male player; Gabon with one male player; and Egypt with one female player. Sixteen more African athletes won quota places at the African Qualification Tournament in Agadir, Morocco, over February 6-7, 2016. We will also be holding the 3rd Luxor Open in Luxor, Egypt, over March 2-4, 2016. So, let’s make 2016 a great Olympic year!

To begin with, permit me to say a very big “thank you” for your support and contribution as we continue taekwondo’s progress on the road to making it one of the most popular sports in the world. In 2015 we held our 1st Asian Para-Taekwondo Championships, along with the 8th Asian Junior Taekwondo Championships, the 3rd Asian Junior Taekwondo Poomsae Championships, the 1st Asian Cadet Taekwondo Championships, and the 1st Asian Cadet Taekwondo Poomsae Championships, which were held successfully in Chinese Taipei in April. These events succeeded in raising the standard of taekwondo across the region. In 2016, the ATU is working to get poomsae adopted as a new event for the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. If we succeed, it will ease the path of this event into the Summer Olympics at some point in the future. So please join me as we build consensus and press for this important step. We are on the road to the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, and what promises to be the best-ever taekwondo event in the world’s ultimate sporting forum. I sincerely hope that the 43 MNAs representing the Asian continent will achieve optimum results through hard training, skilled combat and fair play. As a parting word, let me say: “Genuine success comes only to those who are ready for it. So, never step back and always have courage to accept new challenges.” I wish all ATU members a happy, healthy and prosperous year!

2016 promises to be an exciting year, but first, let me look back over the year 2015 to see what we achieved together - notably, the inclusion of taekwondo in the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 and the incubation of the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation. Thanks to these initiatives, I am very proud to be part of the taekwondo family: We are doing the right things. Turning to the ETU, we held some tremendous events in 2015, with the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. This means that – finally! Europe has joined the other continents in holding its very own continental multi-sport games. We also organized, for the first time, a European Championships featuring Olympic weight categories in Russia, and a European Kids Championships for our very young youngsters. In addition, we saw major events in Turkey, Romania, Serbia and France. In 2016 the Olympic Games present a showcase for our best athletes and I am confident that this will be a milestone for European taekwondo. But not everyone is at this elite level. We continue to organize events for all athletes. We will hold events for seniors, clubs, kids, cadets and under-21 athletes. And we will continue with our Coach Licensing program, via which we continue to educate and train our coaches. Also, we will host the inaugural WTF President’s Cup in Bonn, Germany. On another point: In 1976, the ETU was founded so this year we celebrate our 40th anniversary. It will present us taekwondo old timers with the opportunity to look back and reminisce.

2015 saw record numbers of Oceania coaches and referees undertake OTU coach and referee accreditation courses. The 2015 Australian Open saw record numbers of countries and athletes participating in this important G2 event. 2015 also saw the first Oceania Club Championships, providing regional clubs with the opportunity to compete at the international level. Papua New Guinea hosted the Pacific Games in 2015, one of the most successful games in history. Again, record numbers of athletes and countries entered. The OTU had been led since 2005 by Phil Coles. Phil retired from the presidency in 2015 and I took over, having, since 2005, been secretary general. Phil remains honorary president. The OTU extends their eternal gratitude to him. No Oceania athletes qualified for Rio 2016 via the Grand Prix, but eight athletes from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga have won places via the Oceania Qualification Tournament for Rio 2016. In 2016 the following events are scheduled: June 18-19 (TBC) -The Oceania WTF Presidents Cup. The OTU is currently finalizing the host nation. / July 15-17 – Australian Open (G2) in Canberra, Australia. / October 1-2 – 7th Oceania Championships in Fiji. / TBC – 2nd Oceania Open Club Championships. Date and host country to be confirmed. In 2016 the OTU education programs for coaches, referees, judges and officials will expand. The OTU will negotiate for poomsae and para-taekwondo’s inclusion in the 2019 Pacific Games. Discussions will be held with the WTF to ensure more Oceania participation in Tokyo 2020. The 2016 Oceania Championships will see record numbers. Colored belts will also participate for the first time. And the OTU will finalize with the WTF an Oceania IR course and refresher in October.

We successfully overcame many challenges in 2015. Let me list a few accomplishments. We initiated the PATU Intercontinental Coach Certification to educate coaches. The PATU Intercontinental Coach Certification is now mandatory for all cadet, junior, senior and poomsae coaches. The WTF is planning to initialize WTF coaching certification with PATU in 2016. We completed 10 WTF G-ranked events, along with the Pan American Cadet and Junior Championships, Pan American Club Championships, South American Championships, Pan American Games Qualification Tournament, and of course, our bi-annual PATU General Assembly. Prior to the Argentina Open, PATU signed an agreement with the Americas Paralympic Committee (APC) to be an official member of the APC and include para-taekwondo in the 2019 Para-Pan American Games. In July, we celebrated one of the best ever Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. At year end, the Mexican federation organized the WTF Grand Prix finals and WTF Gala Awards. At the Grand Prix Finals, PATU qualified five athletes for Rio 2016. We also have four from Brazil, the host nation. In 2016, the Pan American Olympic Qualification Tournament will be held in March in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Our continued communication with PASO/ ODEPA and the Lima, Peru Organizing Committee for 2019 Pan Am Games initiated the inclusion of poomsae and para-taekwondo in 2019. PATU is also making strong efforts to increase our kyorugi competitions to five weight categories in 2019. I urge all MNAs to start their preparations for this tournament immediately. As a team, I am very confident that PATU can achieve many new goals in 2016.

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WTF Event Calendar

2016

2016-2017

Last Updated: March 7, 2016

Date

Place

Event

G

Jan. 16-17

Istanbul, Turkey

European Qualification Tournament for Rio 2016 Olympic Games

N/A

Feb. 2-3

Reno, USA

2016 U.S. Open Para-Taekwondo Championships

G-1

Feb. 2-7

Reno, USA

2016 U.S. Open Taekwondo Championships

G-2

Feb. 6-7

Agadir, Morocco

African Qualification Tournament for Rio 2016 Olympic Games

N/A

Feb.11-12

Montreal, Canada

2016 Canada Para-Taekwondo Open

G-1

Feb. 11-14

Montreal, Canada

2016 Canada Open Taekwondo Championships

G-1

Feb. 14-16

Antalya, Turkey

Turkish Open

G-1

Feb. 18-20

Antalya, Turkey

European Taekwondo Club Championships

G-1

Feb. 18-20

Sharjah, U.A.E

6th Asian Club Championships

G-1

Date

Place

Event

Feb. 20-21

Rio, Brazil

Aquece Rio Open Series (Rio 2016 Olympic Test Event)

G-1

Sept.

Moscow, Russia

6th International Russian Open

G-2

Feb. 23-25

Fujairah, U.A.E

4th Fujairah Open 2016

G-2

Sept. 16-18

Warsaw, Poland

Polish Open - Warsaw Cup

G-1

Feb. 27

Port Moresby, Papua NewGuinea

Oceania Qualification Tournament for Rio 2016 Olympic Games

N/A

Feb. 27-28

Maribor, Slovenia

Slovenia Open

G-1

March 4-6

Luxor, Egypt

3rd Luxor Open 2016

G-2

March 10-11

Aguascalientes, Mexico

Pan American Qualification Tournament for Rio 2016 Olympic Games

N/A

March 12-13

Aguascalientes, Mexico

2016 Mexico Open Taekwondo Championships

G-1

March 12-13

Eindhoven, Netherlands

43th Lotto Dutch Open Taekwondo Championships 2016

March 12-15

Doha, Qatar

2nd Qatar Taekwondo Open

March 19-20

Lommel, Belgium

Belgian Open Kyorugi Championships

G-1

March 25-27

Lviv, Ukraine

Ukraine Open Cup

G-1

April 7-10

Bonn, Germany

1st WTF President's Cup-European Region

G-2

April 15-17

Alicante, Spain

Spanish Open 2016

G-1

April 16-17

Manila, Philippines

Asian Qualification Tournament for Rio 2016 Olympic Games

N/A

April 18

Manila, Philippines

4th Asian Taekwondo Poomsae Championships 2nd Asian Para-Taekwondo Championships

April 19-20

Manila, Philippines

22nd Asian Taekwondo Championships (Kyorugi)

G-4

April 22-24

Hamburg, Germany

German Open 2016

G-1

May 6-8

Tehran, Iran

27th Fajr International Open

G-1

May 19

Port Said, Egypt

African Taekwondo Poomsae Championships

G-4

May 19-22

Montreux, Switzerland

European Taekwondo Championships

G-4

May 20-21

Port Said, Egypt

African Taekwondo Championships

G-4

May 22

Port Said, Egypt

1st African Para-Taekwondo Championships

June 3-5

Innsbruck, Austria

Austrian Open 2016

G

Sept. 17-18

Warsaw, Poland

5th European Para Taekwondo Championships

Sept. 29-Oct. 2

Lima, Peru

10th World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships

Oct.

TBD

4th Pan American Para-Taekwondo Championships

G4/G2

Oct. 1-2

Suva, Fiji

7th Oceania Taekwondo Championships 2nd Oceania Para-Taekwondo Championships

G-4 G4/G2

G-1

Oct. 1-2

Riga, Latvia

Riga Open

G-1

G-1

Oct. 29-30

Belgrade, Serbia

Galeb Belgrade Trophy-Serbia Open 2016

G-1

Nov.

TBD, Australia

2nd Oceania Club Championships

G-1

Nov. 16-20

Burnaby, Canada

2016 World Taekwondo Junior Championships

N/A

Nov.

TBD, Nepal

3rd Mt. Everest International Open Taekwondo Championships

G-1

Nov. 12-13

Zagreb, Croatia

22nd Croatia Open

G-1

Nov. 27-28

Ramla, Israel

14th Israel Open Championships

G-1

Dec.

TBD

2016 WTF World Taekwondo Grand-Prix Final

G-8

Dec.

TBD

2016 WTF World Taekwondo Team Championships

G-2

Date

Place

Event

June 24-30

Muju, Korea

2017 World Taekwondo Championships

G-12

July 18-30

Samsun, Turkey

23rd Summer Deaflympics

N/A

G-4 G4/G2

G4/G2

G4/G2 G-8

2017 G

G-1

Aug. 19-31

Taipei, Chinese Taipei

30th Summer Universiade

G-2

TBD

3rd WTF World Taekwondo Cadet Championships

N/A

June 4-5

Bali, Indonesia

1st WTF World Taekwondo Beach Championships

G-1

TBD

June 10-12

Thessaloniki, Greece

Greece Open 2016

G-1

TBD

TBD

7th WTF World Taekwondo Para Championships

G-10

June 18-19

Auckland, New Zealand

1st WTF President's Cup - Oceania Region

G-2

TBD

TBD

2017 IWAS World Games

G-6

TBD

TBD

2017 WTF World Taekwondo Grand-Prix Series 1

G-4

TBD

TBD

2017 WTF World Taekwondo Grand-Prix Series 2

G-4

TBD

TBD

2017 WTF World Taekwondo Grand-Prix Series 3

G-4

TBD

TBD

2017 WTF World Taekwondo Grand-Prix Final

G-8

TBD

TBD

2017 WTF World Taekwondo Team Championships

G-2

June 18-19

Vienna, Austria

2016 Austrian Poomsae Open 2016 Austrian Para-Taekwondo Poomsae Open

G-1 N/A

June 30-July 5

Gyeongju, Korea

Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships

G-2

July 9-10

Luxembourg

Lux Open 2016

G-1

July 15

Ramallah City, Palestine

Palestine Open Taekwondo Championships

G-1

July 15-17

Canberra, Australia

2016 Australian Open Championships

G-2

Rio, Brazil

Rio 2016 Olympic Games

G-20

Aug. 5-21

(TKD:17-20)

Last updated: March 7, 2016


103

2016 ISSN 1599-3779

Publisher / Dr. Chungwon Choue, President Editor-in Chief / Magazine Director / Seok-jae Kang, MRD Senior Director Editors / Andrew Salmon, Hee-soo Noh Contributing Photographers / Denis Sekretev, Emmanuel Hammond , Jin-ho Lee Designed by / DN (d-n@daum.net)

The WTF is delighted to bring you the official publication of the federation. The WTF Taekwondo magazine epitomizes our enthusiasm and progressive mindset in leading taekwondo and the WTF. The WTF Taekwondo magazine is published annually. It is a summary of the previous year’s events, competition results and happenings throughout the world of taekwondo. It provides the events of the year, interviews with taekwondo stars and useful information on taekwondo.

Š 2016 World Taekwondo Federation This publication and its contents may not be reproduced, even in part, in any form, without the written permission of the WTF.

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