Para taekwondo was announced on the Tokyo 2020 programme last year, and the sport has not taken its foot off the pedal since.
This year was especially significant for athletes, as five Continental Championships have been held that allow them to garner world ranking points ahead of next year’s World Championships and further build-up toward Tokyo 2020. The continued growth of Para taekwondo enters the International Paralympic Commmittee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2016 at No. 40.
“In 2015 the WTF [World Taekwondo Federation] took the decision to make the World Para Taekwondo Championships an event only held every two years,” said Olof Hansson, manager of Para taekwondo at the WTF.
“This would create an opportunity to further develop the Continental Para Taekwondo tournaments to assure that all athletes had at least one high-level international tournament in their continent.
This has allowed more athletes access to international classification and to compete at an international level. It has also helped add another, much needed, step on the road from grassroots to World Championships.”
With the sport set to make its Paralympic debut, the stakes for athletes have been even more raised and certain performances have stood out.
Among those was from Great Britain’s Amy Truesdale at the 5th Para Taekwondo Championships in September in Warsaw, Poland.
After a long season of losses, Truesdale won gold and regained her No. 1 title in the female K44 over 58 kg division.
“I was very happy with my first place in the Europeans I felt the additional training I did prior to this competition paid off,” Truesdale said. “Once again it was a well organised competition which is continually increasing in athlete participation which makes the competition and my first place result more exciting.”
Those European Championships also saw the first ever Para taekwondo refugee athlete compete as Hadi Hassanzada took on the male K42 under 61kg and finished fifth and showcased the extended reach of the sport.
"It was a good experience for me and I liked to see all the other Para taekwondo athletes,” Hassanzada said. “Seeing them training together and watching them fighting in competition motivates me.
“I saw that winning in Para taekwondo doesn't come easy and that you have to learn and train a lot for it.
It was special for me to be able to participate in such a big event and to share this experience with all the other athletes."
Also held this year were the 2nd Asian Championships; 2nd Oceania Championships; and 1st African Championships. The 4th Pan American Para Taekwondo Championships was the first competition of 2016 to include classes for athletes with an intellectually disability (P20) and athletes with a neurological impairment (P30 classes), reflecting the WTF’s commitment to providing opportunities for all.
All Continental Championships were open competitions, but regional athlete would earn more points toward rankings.
Classes at Tokyo 2020.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.