"Each year, we are only allowed to take part in one or two events. It affects our performance level as well as ranking points."
Taekwondo fighter Kook-hyun Han had a wake-up call after participating at the 2017 World Taekwondo (WT) Asian Para Taekwondo Open in Chuncheon, South Korea, earlier this month.
Five out of the six South Korean fighters competing, including Han, did not go past the round of 16, showing how far the host nation – also the birthplace of taekwondo – has to go to develop in the Para side of the sport.
The Asian Open was his first competition of the 2017 season, but Han did not think the lack of experience would hinder him.
“In spite of that, I was a bit confident, because I spent more time on training individually and analysing my rivals’ performances by watching videos. However it seemed that it was not enough at all. I was very disappointed,” Han said.
The 38-year-old – who won bronze at the 2009 World Championships - admits a lack of support and specialist Para coaches is hindering South Korea’s progress. After the Asian Open Han was offered the job of head coach himself, but turned it down.
“Even though I’m a more expert than any other coaches, I refused it, because I have been always dreaming to be on the stage of Olympic [Paralympic] Games as athlete since I took up the sport at age ten.”
“Each year, we are only allowed to take part in one or two events. It affects our performance level as well as ranking points. The world rankings are very important for seeding,” he said.
With the sport set to make its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020, Han is concentrating on his own form.
“I know that these issues won’t be solved soon, so now I’m just trying my best while focusing on what I can do. My primary goal for the 2017 World Championships [in London, Great Britain] is to reach the quarter final [in the K44 under 61kg], and then I’ll see.”