(January 29, 2021)
By: IPC volunteer writer Lee Reaney
With 2020 unforgettable for all the wrong reasons, 2021 in Para Taekwondo should be unforgettable for all the right ones. The biggest year in Para Taekwondo history will see the sport’s Paralympic debut, its biggest world championships, and its introduction into lucrative events like the World Taekwondo Grand-Prix and Grand Slam events.
Legends to Be Made at Tokyo 202One
It may be a bit later than everyone expected, but Para Taekwondo is finally set to make its Paralympic debut this summer at the rescheduled 202One Paralympic Games. The addition of the Para sports movement’s first full-contact sport to the Paralympic program gives Para Taekwondo athletes the chance to dazzle on the world stage. The sport’s biggest names – like Denmark’s Lisa Gjessing, Iran’s Mehdi Pourrahnama, Mongolia’s Bolor-Erdene Ganbat, and Great Britain’s Amy Truesdale – have images of Paralympic gold jumping before their eyes. But hot on their heels is Para Taekwondo’s newest generation of stars, led by Mexico’s Juan Diego Garcia Lopez, Brazil’s Nathan Torquato, and China’s Yujie Li. Who will step up and etch their names as permanent Para Taekwondo legends? One thing is for sure – Para sports fans will be blown away at the speed, talent, and power of Para Taekwondo. See you in Tokyo!
Dreams Will Be Realised – and Crushed – at Paralympic Qualification Tournaments
When the COVID pandemic upended the sports world’s calendar last year, Para Taekwondo had only completed three of five Paralympic qualification events. This means that athletes from across Europe and Asia have waited patiently – and trained incessantly – in preparation for when their own qualification events would be held. In the end, the events have been pushed back until 2021, with Sofia, Bulgaria and Amman, Jordan hosting the Paralympic hopefuls. Stars like Great Britain’s world champion Matt Bush, Korea’s Para Taekwondo pioneer Jeonghun Joo, and Azerbaijan’s two-time European champion Aynur Mammadova have yet to book their tickets to Tokyo, so 2021 will start off with dreams being made – and broken – a year later than expected.
2021 World Championships to Be Biggest Para Taekwondo Event in History
The last time the World Para Taekwondo Championships were held, in early 2019 in Antalya, Turkey, nearly 400 athletes from nearly 70 nations competed – more than double the previous tournament. Expect the 2021 edition to see that rapid growth continue. Set for Wuxi, China just weeks after the sport makes its Paralympic debut in Tokyo, the 2021 tournament will feature Paralympic heroes, those athletes that didn’t make the cut for Tokyo. Last time around, Para Taekwondo’s newest generation of stars announced their arrival on the global stage as teenagers shocked grizzled veterans and new countries emerged with their very own first-time taekwondo champions. 2019’s medal events produced some sensational fights, and with the sport’s top athletes expected to be at the top of their games just weeks after competing for Paralympic titles, you can expect scores to be settled, the emergence of thrilling new stars and, perhaps, the greatest fights Para Taekwondo has ever seen.
Para Taekwondo Goes Big Time with Grand-Prix & Grand Slam Events
Another sign that Para Taekwondo is one of the Para movement’s fastest-growing sports is the introduction of new, high-level events. In 2021, Para Taekwondo athletes will join their Olympic counterparts at lucrative events like the World Taekwondo Grand-Prix events and World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions series. Grand-Prix events were launched in 2013 to provide a standard Olympic qualification system and Para Taekwondo has been approved for up to four events each year, including the annual Grand-Prix final. Para Taekwondo’s first Grand-Prix event was slated for late 2020 in Cancun, Mexico before COVID forced its postponement. Para Taekwondo may also be included in the prestigious Grand Slam Champions Series – a season-ending event featuring the year’s most successful fighters. Launched in 2017, this will allow taekwondo’s biggest fighters – both Olympic and Paralympic – to showcase their talents to a global audience. More than just a showcase, the televised event will offer an additional path to qualify for the 2024 Paralympic Games. World Taekwondo says the inclusion of Para athletes at these events “reflects the significant growth of the sport”.
Para Poomsae Expands to Include All Impairment Types
As Para Taekwondo attracts more and more athletes, the sport continues to grow at a rapid pace – and perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in Para Poomsae. Recognizing this, this year World Taekwondo will expand classification groups to include Para Poomsae athletes with any impairment types, adding divisions for deaf athletes, visually impaired athletes, those with neurological or intellectual impairments, short stature athletes, and athletes in wheelchairs. An ad-hoc Para Taekwondo Poomsae Committee was formed last year and will adapt Poomsae rules to the different impairment types, develop a method for ranking Para Poomsae, and study new competition formats, including Pairs, Team, and Freestyle. Ultimately, the goal is to see Poomsae athletes join their Kyorugi colleagues by participating at the Paralympic Games.