Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Great Olympic Fools

If there's one thing hardly anyone knows about me, it's this: as a child, Taekwondo was my life. I joined my local club - a very small one - at the age of eight and rapidly fell in love with the sport. I competed at regional, national, and international level, and won medals at each competition. I was devastated when my club folded, mainly because I'm still here many years later and yet to find another great club that has the proper affiliations.

Not many people are aware of Taekwondo. It's not as well known as it's cool cousins karate and judo. But something has happened over the past few weeks that has propelled Taekwondo in to the mainstream. Aaron Cook is arguably Britain's greatest Taekwondo fighter, having won more medals than most could count over the past few years. He came forth in the Beijing Olympics at the age of 17 and looked an absolute certainty to scoop at least a bronze medal in his home Olympics. Except, that's not going to happen. Because for some absurd unknown reasons, he hasn't been selected to participate.

I never imagined that so many people would care about my little sport. When I mention it to people in passing, I normally have to spend a good ten minutes trying to explain the sport before eventually giving up and just saying, "it's a bit like karate." But here we are. Taekwondo is not only featuring in national newspapers, it's also on Sky Sports News. People with absolutely no affiliation to the sport - and I dare say that some have never even heard of it, nor care about it - are suddenly up in arms at the thought of one of our best medal options being sidelined for someone who, I'm sad to say, doesn't quite match up to the skills Aaron Cook has to offer.

I know there isn't much an individual like me can do. I even doubt a collective army of enraged individuals can change the minds of the selection board. But what we do need to do is raise awareness of this beautiful sport. We need to get more kids involved in Taekwondo. We do need to find a way to get Aaron to compete at the highest level. Taekwondo is more than just a sport - it is a way of life. It becomes second nature. Even now, I find myself counting in Korean, or comparing someone's actions to a Taekwondo movement. By refusing to allow Aaron Cook to compete, the powers that be are doing so much more than just taking away his chances of Olympic glory, they are taking away the very thing he breathes for. I can only hope something changes.

Join the fight to get Aaron to the Olympics. Sign the petition here:

Twitter: @AmyWhitear

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