Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that features dazzling rotary kicks and chopping kicks, and made its Paralympic debut in Japan. The tournament ended on Sunday, with 68 athletes from 35 countries competing in taekwondo under the Klieg Light in a large convention hall just outside Tokyo.
In many other sports, wealthy country Paralympic athletes tend to have an advantage when considering how performance depends on technologies such as customized wheelchairs and running blades for prostheses. However, like the Olympics, taekwondo has the effect of democratization because it does not require expensive equipment or large training facilities. In countries such as Croatia and Egypt, where the number of medals won by seven each throughout the tournament was relatively small, there were players on the podium in Taekwondo. The only athlete to win a medal at the Tokyo Paralympics in Peru was Leonor Espinoza Karanza, who won a gold medal at a women’s event weighing less than 49 kilograms.
Short and explosive matches take place on an octagonal platform, where athletes wear vests with embedded electronic sensors that can track the accuracy of kicks that score points. World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue said the innovation will make Taekwondo one of the “fairest and most transparent sports”.
“It reduces human error in judgment,” Choue said. He said the scoring process was otherwise fair: referees are evenly divided between men and women.
When Taekwondo debuted, it was particularly noticeable because one of its rivals, Zaki Ahu Daddy, 22, was an Afghan athlete who had dramatically escaped from Kabul and arrived in Tokyo. Kuda Daddy lost two games.
To expand the sport, World Taekwondo has set up another foundation to introduce martial arts to refugee camps in Jibuchi, Jordan, Rwanda and Turkey. Parfait Hakizimana, a refugee from a Rwandan camp, was originally from Burundi and participated in the Tokyo Olympics.
When Taekwondo debuted at the Paralympics, the categories in which athletes compete were streamlined and various impairment classifications were integrated. The competition was particularly fierce for some athletes competing with rivals with mild disabilities. After winning the match against Kuda Daddy, Ukraine’s Victoria Marchuk said, “Of course, it’s a bit annoying because all the classes are combined.” “Still, my dream has come true. I am very happy to stand here.”