SAVE Taekwondo is a mission with South Korea, which is determined that its traditional martial art shall not be shoved off the Olympic 2012 rolls.



   Korea’s mission:

Save Taekwondo

SAVE Taekwondo is a mission with South Korea, which is determined that its traditional martial art shall not be shoved off the Olympic 2012 rolls.

Last month, Seoul launched a worldwide campaign with delegations fanning out to 15 countries in search of the numbers to carry taekwondo through the IOC vote.

The effort is helmed by World Taekwondo Federation president Choue Chung Won of South Korea. He has logged up his quota of frequent flier miles in lobbying support and brainstorming for ways to make the game fair and viewer-friendly.

Olympic history
‘Korea’s gift to the world’, as Choue is fond of calling it, started as an Olympic exhibition sport in 1988. It became an official sport at Sydney 2000 and gives out a total of eight gold medals, four each for men and women.

Its appeal
With around 60 million exponents around the globe including some 28,000 in Singapore, this Asian sport would certainly seem to have mass appeal.

‘This is a dynamic sport. Along with judo, it represents in the Olympics the sports of Asia – the most populous region in the world,’ to quote Choue.

Why it may be out
Yet, it was starved for media attention in Athens and received low television ratings compared to other sports, notes a recent report of the Olympic Programme Commission. Its findings gave rise to speculation that taekwondo’s days were numbered.

Much has been made of the charges of judging bias dogging the sport. For instance, Turkish athletes staged a public protest in Jeju against judgments at the World Taekwondo Championships in 2001.

Just as unsavoury is the sport’s link with Kim Un Yong, a former IOC vice-president and top taekwondo official convicted of corruption.

Why it should stay

To make the game more interesting, more points will be given to athletes who can deliver effective blows through difficult techniques. Plus, a shorter match time and smaller area of competition.

Also, marketing of the sport, thus far largely neglected, will be pursued to ensure its development.




Who says taekwondo’s unexciting?

TAEKWONDO is a hand-to-hand martial art that involves high-flying kicks and swift action.

In the ring, the combatants, their eyes smouldering with aggression, have no compassion about hurting each other. Those without an appetite for stomach-churning conflict had better be elsewhere.

Yet, amazingly, the Korean art of self-defence has been considered unexciting. This has threatened its very existence in future Olympic Games.

The judging bias could be solved through electronics. The protectors taekwondo athletes wear during matches could be wired to indicate when they have been struck by a blow.

To make his pitch for the sport’s retention, Choue visited 20 countries last year, according to Korea’s JoongAng Daily.

He’s counting on support from some 30 countries that won at least one medal in taekwondo competitions at the previous two Olympic Games.

‘They will surely cast ‘yes’ votes for our sport,’ he told The Korea Times in a recent interview.

If the sport maintains its Olympic status, Choue promises that the number of taekwondo exponents will rise to 100 million worldwide.

Next week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sits to review the 28 Olympic sports for the 2012 Olympics. And taekwondo, which made its debut as a medal sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is said to be vulnerable to the chop.

Fortunately, it has no intention of going down without a fight. Among the changes it has made are to shorten the time for each match to encourage more action and reduce the competition area to prompt more furious contact.

Welcoming the changes, Lim Teong Chin, the Singapore Taekwondo Federation’s general manager, said: ‘Some people feel that taekwondo’s weakness is that it is not exciting enough. With the new rules, there will be more action rather than just two opponents waiting for each other to make mistakes.’

Still, it will be an uneasy week for taekwondo and its millions of disciples the world over. In Singapore alone, there are about 28,000 exponents and around 3,000 active black belts.

Meanwhile, national coach Wong Liang Ming and her protege, Ong Koon Yew, will be waiting anxiously. Wong is pinning her hopes on the promising Koon Yew becoming Singapore’s first taekwondo Olympian.

Said Wong: ‘He has the potential to make the 2008 Olympics, but 2012 will be perfect. He would be 24 then and that’s the age when most taekwondo exponents peak.’

The Chai Chee Secondary student, 17, said: ‘I want to win an Olympic medal for Singapore.’

No doubt, he will be flattened should the sport be axed. As when a roundhouse kick lands on the temple and takes the light off a participant’s eyes.