Elite Academy High-Performance coach, Paul Green, is a two-time European Champion and represented Great Britain at the Athens Olympics Games in 2004. Having taken up his coaching role earlier this year, Green is able to draw on his vast experience to advise Britain’s current crop of top athletes in their pursuit of Olympic glory. He caught up with Daniel Krendel to talk about the past, present and future of British Taekwondo as it enters the most exciting period in its history.
At thirty years-old Paul Green has been practising taekwondo for more than two decades. Having broken bones in his back and toes, torn his achilles and ruptured his groin, it is fair to say that Green has been around the block a few times. Hailing locally from Sale in Manchester, Green cites the Bruce Lee martial-art films as the catalyst for his interest in taekwondo which he took up with his brother in the late 1980’s. Back then taekwondo was not even a recognised Olympic event but today it has blossomed into a sport which boasts over sixty million world-wide practitioners in nearly two-hundred countries, and has been part of the Olympic portfolio since Sydney 2000.
Green said, “It is best to start at club level, like I did, with a motivated coach who can help you to make a name for yourself within the region. In time the opportunities for progression are there to be taken and with the elite academy that Great Britain now has in place, there has never been a better time for taekwondo in Great Britain.”
Green is referring to the elite taekwondo academy at the Feat Factory in Manchester’s Sportcity where the team is now based after their move from Loughborough earlier in the year.
“The new academy has given so many additional benefits to the athletes. The fact that all training, financial and other lifestyle issues are taken care of for them allows the athletes to be one-hundred percent focused on performance,” added Green.
He might just have a point because in the past four years Great Britain’s world ranking has risen an astonishing seventy-seven places, taking them from 88th to 11th, placing them amongst the leading nations in the world, and prospects for the future of the sport are good.
Green continues, “There are some very strong nations throughout the world and Britain will have to be on top of its game to medal in Beijing but this is something that the management team and I see as attainable.”
London 2012 has clearly created a surge of interest within the sport as youngsters from across the country dream of Olympic glory on home spoil. The creation of the specialist, which allows sixteen athletes to train on a professional basis, has provided the perfect platform to give Britain’s taekwondo players the springboard they need to succeed at international level. However with just four athletes per country allowed to compete at the Olympics, competition for places is fierce, and ultimately not everyone will be able to fulfil their dream.
“While there is a wealth of talent within the elite academy only a small handful of athletes will have ever the chance to compete at the Olympics and the management team go to great lengths to ensure that the younger players keep up with their studies so they have some-thing to fall back on if they don’t quite make it,” said Green.
For the Olympic Qualification event, Green was party to the tough selection process which decided which four athletes would compete in the tournament, a hard task by anyone’s standards, let alone for someone so close to the sport.
“We are now starting to have more depth in the UK within specific weight divisions which obviously makes the selection process a lot more competitive. With the tournament being held in the UK it made it that more painful for the ones who missed out, knowing that they would’ve had the chance to compete on home soil in front of a home crowd,” said Green.
Regardless of Great Britain’s success in Manchester, it is abundantly clear that taekwondo is a shining example of a sport that has got things right. Green and all the coaching team, as well as back up staff, have had the foresight to put all the pre-requisites in place to mount a challenge for medals, if not in Beijing, then in London in five years time. The very fact that Britain has been selected to host an international taekwondo event of this size and magnitude is a glowing testament to their rapid success which the sport is enjoying in Britain.