With less than three years to go until Para Taekwondo makes its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020 the excitement among athletes and officials at World Taekwondo is clear. For athletes, the next three years could shape the rest of their lives. For Chakir Chelbat, the chair of the Para Taekwondo Technical & Referee Committee, and his Committee, the next three years is a vital opportunity to ensure that the sport of Para Taekwondo is at the very highest level come 2020.
“All our forces are on how to improve,” Chelbat explains following the record-breaking 7th World Para Taekwondo Championships in London on October 19.
“From a technical perspective, we are looking at the videos to see how we can improve. We need to grow the sport because at Tokyo 2020 we have to deliver the best possible competition.”
World Taekwondo Council has approved that the the World Para Taekwondo Championships will become an annual event, and this is a move that Chelbat strongly welcomes.
“It is a great idea. It will help the sport to grow and help strengthen Para Taekwondo around the world. Combining the event with the Grand Prix as we have done here in London is amazing. It provides great support for Para Taekwondo as everything is done at the highest level from an organisational perspective. It also gives great motivation to the Para Taekwondo athletes who see that they are equally important and treated equally.”
There is no doubt that the World Para Taewondo Championships were a huge success. They were the biggest ever – 118% bigger than the last edition in 2015 with more countries than ever before competing. But Chelbat recognizes there is so much potential for further improvement. World Championships should be over two days rather than one. He believes the Head of Team meeting, Classification and the weigh ins should all be made more efficient so that the amount of time athletes and coaches have to wait around is greatly reduced. He wants to offer better conditions for athletes while they wait. Chelbat and his team have already been working on an education program for international referees which will be put in place from January and allow international referees to get a Para Taewkondo license. This will improve the level and quality of refereeing in Para Taekwondo matches. He also wants to improve the warm up areas for athletes and enhance education from World Taekwondo to the Member National Associations (MNAs).
Communication with MNAs is key to Chelbat. “World Taekwondo is doing a lot of work with MNAs that have Para Taekwondo programs to help them strengthen their programs. But it is not just MNAs that have Para Taekwondo programs we need to communicate with those without them as well. World Taekwondo is investing a lot of funding into Para Taekwondo at MNA level to ensure the sport grows around the world. We have 208 MNAs and we are sending the same message to all of them: we are here to support you.”
Taekwondo is such an accessible sport that Chelbat is in no doubts there is room for significant growth in more countries around the world. “The sport is global because it is so accessible. We see how medals go to many different countries, including poorer countries who wouldn’t traditionally have the same opportunities. With Poomsae we are also providing further opportunities to athletes with different impairments. Athletes can explore their talent in Poomsae if Kyorugi is not for them. That is what makes Para Taekwondo such an amazing thing: it gives everyone a chance to be a champion.”
Despite being relatively new to the role it is clear that his vast experience in Taekwondo will only benefit Para Taekwondo.
“I am very grateful to be the Chair of this committee. I discovered anther world working with Para Taekwondo”, he explains. “When people think about para sport they think about disability, but it’s not about that. It’s about great sport! Para Taekwondo is growing very fast. At next year’s World Championships it will be even bigger. We will keep working to make it the very best it can be. We will rock para sport!”