Taekwondo secured its status for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after a much-anticipated International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote last year. World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Choue Chung–won now claims that booking a spot in the 2020 Paralympics would be equally critical for taekwondo’s global acceptance, posted koreatimes.co.kr
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) put para-taekwondo and badminton on a shortlist for the 2020 Paralympics over seven other sports on March 6. The IPC will make a final decision in October but the specific date has not yet been decided.
“It is another step toward becoming a sport truly for all,” Choue said in an interview with The Korea Times. “In 2014, the WTF will do its utmost to put taekwondo on the official program of the 2020 Paralympics.”
The WTF recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation. It marked the WTF’s fourth deal with international para-sports organizations as it looks to spread the sport’s presence in competition for athletes with disabilities.
Joining the Paralympic program is important in terms of giving opportunities to persons with physical and intellectual disabilities, said Choue.
“The cooperation with the para-sports organizations will be a stable base for taekwondo to achieve the WTF’s goal,” he said. “It will give underprivileged people hope and opportunity to compete on the world stage, which is very meangful.”
Choue initiated the para-taekwondo project after his inauguration in 2004, with a vision that taekwondo can play a bigger role beyond just competition.
When the first World Para-Taekwondo Championships were held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2009, drawing 38 athletes from 19 countries, Choue felt a sense of accomplishment.
“Some athletes shed tears during the awards ceremony, saying that they appreciated the opportunity. It really moved my heart,” Choue said. “Through watching the athletes without arms compete with determination and spirit, I learned so much.”
For the fourth world championships, a total of 82 athletes from 25 countries participated. The WTF expects to see more for the fifth one, which will be held on June 21 and 22 in Moscow. An academic symposium will also be held to develop programs for athletes with disabilities during the competition.
The WTF tried to join the 2016 Paralympics in 2010, with para-taekwondo, para-badminton, intellectually impaired basketball, para-golf, and powerchair football, but failed after the IPC chose para-canoe and para-triathlon.
“At that time, taekwondo had a short history of world championships and few participants, which has improved a lot over the past four years,” Choue said. “The Paralympics only have 22 events, which are six short of the Olympics’ 28. So I see the possibility of taekwondo’s inclusion as very high.”
The WTF has conducted research into evidence-based, sport-specific classification systems and competition rules to make the para-taekwondo competition fairer.
“For example, a competition between an athlete with one arm and two arms is not fair. It needs classification,” Choue said. “It was hard to do it when only few athletes participated, but now it is possible and definitely needed.”
The researchers first tested elite able-bodied athletes to make a baseline measure for para-taekwondo athletes at Yong In University in December. Then, they invited 16 para-taekwondo athletes from Russia, France and Turkey to Moscow for an analysis.
Based on the result, the WTF developed a para-taekwondo classification code and competition rules for the World Para-Taekwondo Championships, all of which are subject to the approval of the WTF Council and General Assembly in Taiwan this month.
The WTF has already seen some results.
Taekwondo has been included in almost all multi-sport games for the disabled, including as a demonstration sport at the 2015 INAS Global Games and the 2015 CPISRA World Games. The WTF is also working hard to fulfill the requirements for inclusion in the 2015 IBSA World Championships and Games.
Choue said taekwondo’s ultimate goal is to promote world peace. “In fact, the United Nations and International Olympic Committee have the same goal: world peace,” Choue said. “Taekwondo is definitely heading in that direction.”