‘Officially’ it has not existed for very long and therefore it is lesser known than, for example, Wheelchair Tennis or Boccia: Para Taekwondo. Today, also this sport has started at the European Para Championships.
In 2005, the World Taekwondo Federation established a committee to further develop and promote the para branch of the sport. Since 2013, there has also been attention given to athletes with intellectual disabilities. It was only two years ago that Para Taekwondo made its debut at the Olympic Games, in Tokyo. The discipline of the sport that has a place at the Olympics is Kyorugi.
At this tournament the Para Taekwondo matches are held in the K43 and K44 classes. Those are combined in K44 (Kyorugi). In this class athletes with single or bilateral amputations below the elbow, or equivalent functional loss in the arms, compete.
Impressive spinning kicks
The athletes are divided into various weight classes, five different classes for both women and men. Before a match starts, there are a few ‘’practice kicks’’. With these kicks the sensors in the torso and feet protectors are tested. In this sport, points are rewarded for kicking the torso. A spinning kick earns more points than a regular kick. This leads to impressive actions on the mat. The athletes are wearing head protection as well, but that is solely for safety reasons. A kick to the head is considered a foul. A foul leads to a point for the opponent.
How sport can be
A pair of grandparents take their seats on the stands with their two grandsons. During the match, the oldest boy enthusiastically asks questions about the rules and is clearly impressed by Spain’s lead. His grandmother explains: ‘’The main reason we’re here today is because my grandson is in a judo class.’’ The judo matches were played earlier this tournament, but the young combatant could not be there, unfortunately. ‘’I feel it is important to show the boys Para sports,’’ the grandmother continues, ‘’we’re going to
watch all four disciplines that are competing today. We want to show them how sports can be besides what they know.’’
Meanwhile, the two men on the mat come together to thank each other. The Spaniard Joel Martin Villalobos has overshadowed the Frenchman Bopha Kong and leaves the mat with a 20-3 victory.
Top-tier athletes are always impressive
Midway through this match, two women have taken their seats on the stands. They work for a company that provides custom wheelchairs and they have been given the opportunity to come and watch the European Para Championships by their employer. ‘’I always consider it a big achievement when someone competes in top-tier sports, it’s very impressive.’’ Her colleague adds: ‘’I’m personally very interested in combat sports. Therefore, I find It very enjoyable to see how these sports are played in another setting, for example when someone is less or disabled.’’
All the supporters agree: Para Taekwondo is an impressive sport. It deserves a larger stage, and it is definitely worth coming to watch at Rotterdam Ahoy today or tomorrow.
This afternoon, the semi-finals for women under 47 kg and men under 58 kg will be played. The Para Taekwondo day will be concluded by the final for women under 47 kg. The competition will continue throughout tomorrow and Wednesday. Both days will end with medal ceremonies.