The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) hosted an Athletes’ Committee meeting in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, marking the relaunch of a body that has been inactive in recent years.
Held yesterday as part of the WTF’s efforts to put the players at the heart of the sport, its purpose was to give athletes a greater voice in the international governing body’s decision-making.
Among those in attendance at the meeting chaired by France’s Pascal Gentil, the over-80 kilograms Olympic bronze medallist at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, were Niger’s Hamsa Adamou and Ousmane Dandobi Mahamane as well as 2004 80kg bronze medallist Yousef Karami of Iran, South Korea’s Yeon-ji Kim and 2000 58kg gold medallist Michalis Mouroutsos of Greece.
Prior to their discussion, they were joined by representatives of the WTF Council, WTF Games Committee and the WTF Technical Committee.
“It is essential for the sport to hear the voice of the athletes,” said WTF President Chungwon Choue.
“The Athletes’ Committee is that voice.”
The Athlete’s Committee is composed of one male and one female member from each of the WTF’s five continental unions – the African Taekwondo Union, the Asian Taekwondo Union, the European Taekwondo Union, the Oceania Taekwondo Union and the Pan American Taekwondo Union – as well as one male and one female athlete chosen directly by the WTF.
The Committee, which will meet twice a year, is expected to continue in its present form until 2021.
One male and one female will automatically become ex-officio members of the WTF Council with full voting rights.
These positions are due to be filled in April, when an e-vote among Committee members is scheduled to be held.
“You must contribute to developing taekwondo in the future,” added WTF Technical Committee head Jung Kook-hyun, a four-time world champion and Olympic welterweight gold medallist at Seoul 1988.
“If you have any good ideas, discuss them and tell me.”
WTF director general Jin-bang Yang laid out the challenges facing taekwondo, claiming that the judging and refereeing issues that plagued the sport at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games had been fixed through the advent of the electronic protector and scoring system (PSS) and instant video replays.
At Beijing 2008, a women’s heavyweight quarter-final saw China’s Chen Zhong declared the winner against Great Britain’s Sarah Stevenson before British officials protested claiming that the referees missed a scoring kick by Stevenson, which subsequent video footage showed to be correct.
Chen’s victory was rescinded and Stevenson advanced to the semi-final in what was the first time in Olympic taekwondo history that a result had been changed.
The issue, and several other controversies, proved so problematic that the sport came close to being removed from the Olympic programme following heavy criticism.
Yang argued that PSS and instant video replays had upgraded fairness and transparency, but had changed the game to the point where many “old school” taekwondo fighters criticise the modern sport.
“We have got fairness, transparency and satisfaction with the judging and we cannot touch these – these are absolute values,” he said.
“But without hurting these, we have to improve the content and quality of the game.”
According to Yang, key tasks for the WTF are now making the sport more spectator-friendly and more TV-friendly.
Also currently being looked at is improving opportunities for athletes after their fighting careers end.
Other items on the agenda at the meeting included the annual competition calendar, sports organisation, equipment, rules, safety and security and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Discussion took place over the possibility of organising the annual competition calendar in advance and keeping January clear to give elite athletes an opportunity to recuperate.
Improving amenities in the athletes’ warm-up areas at venues and how to start and end competitions on time were talked about as well.
“Some ideas were having a masseur and having healthy food for athletes in the warm-up area, getting rid of slippery mats, and the length of fighting rounds and the number of rounds,” Gentil said.
“We hope to have some tests to try all these things.”
The meeting took place prior to the two-day World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Baku, where action starts today.
It will be followed by the WTF Gala Awards on Sunday (December 11) and the World Taekwondo Team Championships on Monday (December 12) and Tuesday (December 13).