Following their recent address of the athletes at Manchester Feat Factory’s National Taekwondo Academy, the President of the European Taekwondo Union (ETU), Athanasios Pragalos, joined his Secretary General, Gerrit Eissink, in discussing the direction that their sport will take in the years leading up to London 2012. The British Open, being held on 1st – 2nd November at Manchester’s Sportcity, will offer an insight into the future of Taekwondo ahead of the Olympics in 2012.
One of the major changes awaiting introduction is the move towards an electronic scoring system, widely expected to take place prior to the next Olympics. Gerrit Eissink, Secretary General of The European Taekwondo Union, commented, “We cannot wait long, electronic scoring is a necessary change in our sport. Both before and after Beijing we knew that this would eventually be needed at some point and I think the Olympics highlighted some of the flaws in our traditional scoring system. I would expect these to be electronic scoring integrated in time for the next World Championships in Copenhagen, 2009.”
“The Sarah Stevenson incident was a focal point but the problems weren’t necessarily down to the referees, but down to the system. Like any sport we have good referees and we have bad referees but it doesn’t matter if only 2 officials are able to see a contact when 3 are needed to award a point. In Sarah’s match, when 5 people on the mat were unable to agree on a decision that 8000 spectators saw, something must be wrong.”
The success of British athletes in Beijing is expected to stimulate growth in the sport and with performances such as the 4th place finish of 17-year-old Aaron Cook, the British team will continue to look to their youngsters as potential challengers. Eissink agreed, “He [Aaron Cook] is a talent. It’s unbelievable progress.”
The importance of Team GB’s taekwondo success cannot be underestimated and is sure to aid the country’s progress in upcoming tournaments and towards London 2012. Mr. Pragalos stated, “It is good that the BTCB now have an international tournament and it should allow them to build on their current momentum. As in Athens for Greece, success encourages new players and helps to bring through a new generation.
“Generally our relationship with the British Taekwondo Control Board (BTCB) is the same as with other countries but with the British International Open in Manchester and the Olympics coming to London, we will increasingly be working together in organising another successful Olympic tournament.”
The British Open, open to both domestic and international athletes, is being supported by UK Sport and Manchester City Council and promises to be one of the sport’s most competitive tournaments of the year.
Jim Quigley, Head of Major Sports Events and Partnerships, Manchester City Council said, “It is with great pleasure that we welcome the European Taekwondo Union representatives to Manchester, giving us a great opportunity to again demonstrate the rich experience we have in hosting world class events. We are looking forward to the British Open and fully expect it to be a highlight of the taekwondo calendar.”
Andrew Link, Operations Director of BTCB – Sport Taekwondo UK added, “Hosting a major international open ahead of the Olympics highlights not only the presence of our athletes on a world stage, but also our ability to organise elite level sporting events. British taekwondo is enjoying a rise in profile as well as achievement and we were pleased that these respected representatives were able to take the time to speak with us outside of competition.”
Other International Opens staged in Europe have often attracted fighters from over 50 countries including Asia, South America and Africa and have proved a vital stepping stone in developing the careers of Britain’s athletes. Great Britain enjoyed considerable success at last year’s German and Dutch Opens winning 12 medals which included four golds. These impressive performances have since been followed up with Great Britain’s first Olympic medal in Taekwondo at this summer’s Beijing Games.