As you will know if you’ve read our detailed history of taekwondo page, Korea’s favourite sport is now officially recognised as an official medal sport at the Olympic Games.
After fittingly being introduced to the Olympic stage in 1988 at the Games in Seoul as a demonstration sport, the first gold medals were handed out just 12 years later at the 2000 Sydney Games. After a long hard slog to get taekwondo a recognised sport, we feel that its popularity is just the beginning.
Let’s take you through all you need to know on taekwondo becoming an Olympic Sport to remember.
After the name of this deep-history sport was changed to taekwondo in the later 1950s, much was proposed to propel it to greater stardom, with practitioners around the world. However, considering that it took over 30 years to enter the Olympics and over 40 years to become a medal sport, it’s safe to say that the journey has been a case of small progress. Despite the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) being set up in 1973, this incredible upper and lower body martial art was still some way from reaching the ultimate peak. However, it all began shortly after the WTF’s foundation.
As we’ve mentioned in our taekwondo history, the sport received numerous influences from multiple leaders, experts, teachers and pupils to become what it is today. From constantly changing from a fighting technique to a way of life, taekwondo is rich in history. However, with so many differences and variations, this made accepting it into the Olympic Games a tricky situation – after all, how can you be judged on something that has many different avenues of success? Well, after the WTF was formed in 1973, taekwondo was quickly admitted into the Amateur Athletic Union (AUU) which would ultimately start the venture towards Olympic acceptance.
As one of the AUU’s primary roles is to create rules and practices for sports that fall under scrutiny, the organisation was therefore exactly what the sport of taekwondo was craving for at this stage. By analysing competitions and hearing from experts, a proper standard was adopted by both the WTF and taekwondo’s branch of AUU which then lead to a partnership with General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). They work closely with the Olympic authorities and were heavily involved with the WTF being officially recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In 1981, taekwondo participated in the World Games – an international competition for non-Olympic sports – and was pencilled in for an appearance at its birthplace with a demonstration at the 1988 Games. To complete the transition from national treasure to Olympic Sport, taekwondo was recognised as an official sport by the IOC and debuted as a medal event at the 2000 Games.
As many of you may not be familiar with the format of taekwondo at the Olympic Games, we thought we’d conclude this section with a brief description. There are 4 different weight categories that competitors can enter, ranging from sub-58kg and sub-49kg up to +80kg and +67kg for men and women respectively. As the final is contested by just two people, the winner takes the gold medal and the loser the silver.
However, for the bronze, a repechage competition will occur which will see all the competitors who lost to the two finalists go at it, with the two finalists of the repechage winning bronze.
So far, a total of 144 medals have been distributed to taekwondo competitors from just under 40 countries. Unsurprisingly, South Korea leads the way with 12 golds and 19 medals in total, with the closest nation of China racking up 5 golds and 10 medals overall.
18 countries have won a gold medal at least once in taekwondo’s Olympic Games history, with all kinds of countries from across the globe stepping up to the top of the podium.
As taekwondo has merely dipped its toes into the Olympic waters, expect this list to grow rapidly as the sport continues to evolve around the world!