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(Yonhap Interview) Taekwondo must keep evolving to stay relevant in Olympics: chief

All Headlines 06:05 August 17, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) -- The Korean martial art of taekwondo must keep evolving to stay relevant as a Summer Olympic sport, its global chief said Tuesday.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Choue Chung-won, president of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), said all Olympic sports must be willing to change to stay in the Olympic program.

"I think we all saw that when wrestling was excluded from the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee's Executive Board before getting a reprieve," Choue said of the moves in 2013. "So it's not just taekwondo."

Taekwondo became a medal sport in Sydney in 2000, and Choue has spearheaded changes in taekwondo at the previous and the current Olympic Games.

The chest protectors with sensors were put in play at the 2012 London Olympics, and new scoring scales were also introduced.

The WTF has taken it a step further for the ongoing Rio de Janeiro Games. The competitors will be wearing headgear equipped with electronic sensors for the first time at an Olympics. Also, an octagon-shaped competition area will make its Olympic debut here -- it has been used at world championships and other international events.

At the London Olympics, a hit to the body was worth one point; a turning kick to the body was worth two points; a kick to the head was good for three; and a turning kick to the head was worth four.

This time, a turning kick to the body will score three points.

"I can't wait to see how these changes will be received," Choue said, with taekwondo getting underway Wednesday. "Tokyo will host the next Summer Olympics in 2020 and four years will fly by. We're still studying ways to change taekwondo to make it more entertaining."

Choue said shortening the competition hours is on the WTF's agenda, and cited judo's example.

"Judo bouts take place on two different mats, and that saves time," he said. "We use only one court, and the finalists have to compete from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. We're trying to figure out ways that can help athletes and also television viewers."

Choue said a review of taekwondo operations after the Rio Games will help the WTF identify issues that need to be addressed.

"We have to work on them this year, so that we can make necessary changes starting at next year's world championships and further develop taekwondo," Choue added.

For the Tokyo Games, the Japanese martial art of karate has been added as a new sport. Choue said the two sports will be compared to each other and he hopes taekwondo, after undergoing more changes, will leave a stronger impression on the spectators and the IOC members alike.

Choue said the doors are "always open" for North Korean athletes in the Olympics.

The WTF is the only global taekwondo body sanctioned by the IOC, and only the athletes of countries recognized by the WTF are allowed to compete in the Olympics. North Korea is a member of the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), which isn't recognized by the IOC.

The two taekwondo organizations reached a breakthrough agreement in 2014 to allow athletes registered to the WTF and the ITF to compete in each other's events under the rules of the respective body.


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