1st World Poomsae Championships 2006

Today, I caught the second day of the 1st World Poomsae Championship at the Olympic Park in Seoul. It was quite an international event, although many smaller nations didn't seem to be represented - there was also the usual big clout of Iran, Taiwan and Spain in the competition. In fact, I got to meet the national coach of Iran who is a Korean, and has a great sense of style about him. I don't know his name, but I have a whole collection of postcards with his picture on, since he is some kind of celebrity figure in Taekwondo circles. I wonder if it is really owing to him that Iran has great status in international competition.

Korea swept gold medals across the board. It got a bit tiring to hear the Korean national anthem played about 10 times during the medal ceremony. Some of the Korean participants deserved their medals; I think there is a particular kicking technique which the Koreans can often show an edge too, especially in the side kicks required in the Poomsae forms. They have superior angles and balance - perhaps from childhood conditioning. The Korean medalists were also from universities where they are training full-time in Taekwondo in any case. However, a couple of the first prize awards were questionable. A couple of the participants even got booed by other national team spectators. After this result, it's hard to see how other nations can break into the Korean medal rankings. Certainly, I noticed that each judging panel always had 2 Koreans in them, vs 4 representatives from differing nations and awarded the highest marks to their fellow nationals. There was also a low-scoring towards the Japanese participants. It's at risk of having the politically strategic scoring of ice skating or even the Eurovision Song Contest. There's certainly some unlevel playing field.

Sometimes it was easy to see a 'better' Poomsae performance. Other times, it was hard to distinguish what cut the grade. Certainly, the women's competition was very impressive, and any one of several nations could have won a medal for their performance. I can see that I need to up my own Poomsae skills to be on such a level!

I took some photos, but need to wait until the whole film is finished to get it processed. I managed to sneak into the competition area to try and get some shots at the medal presentation award. There were simply no other spectators other than those who were directly linked to the competiting teams except for myself, it seemed, so noone seemed to notice when I strayed into a supposedly 'authorized access' area. Generally, local Koreans do not go to watch Taekwondo competitions like some nations do with other spectator sports. There was certainly more home crowd passion during the soccer World Cup, which is kind of disappointing when it's the Koreans snagging all the medals.

The 2nd Korea Open starts tomorrow, and it seems many of the same competitors for the Poomsae are competing in the Open as well. Does that mean a clean sweep of medals for the Koreans, too? I'm not sure whether I'll be able to go and see it because I'm well behind on my class preparation schedule. I don't know how I can find time to fit everything in!

The photos will come eventually...

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