The end to a glittering junior career occurred in Daugavpils, Latvia at the Junior European Championships where South Dublin Taekwondo [SDTKD] athlete Jack Woolley competed in the youth section for the last time.
Jack who fought in -55kg Junior, had 5 matches in this event with the best in Europe attending. With no seeding in Junior events, the draw is always a bit of a lottery. Jack faced local Daniel Likovs of Latvia in what proved to be an easy warm up match for the Tallaght based 17 year old. Jack saw off his opponent clinically with a 37-2 score line, with the match being brought to a halt at the end of the 2nd round as the score gap exceeded 12 points.
Jack proceeded into the round of 16 against Bulgarian Martin Garkov and kept up his previous momentum, once again closing out the match before the end of regulation time, with a 12 point gap winning 14-2.
In the quarter finals, Jack now faced Spain who always prove to be a tough test on the international circuit. To get a place on the podium Jack needed to bypass Juame Torrens Guardia, which he did in fine fashion, once again without the match seeing out the final round, winning 14-2 again.
With the rest time between matches now becoming much shorter with less time to recuperate, Jack & Coach Robert Taaffe returned to the holding area to prepare for the Semi Final challenge of Oleksly Malyeyev from Ukraine who like Jack had been defeating his previous opponents with substantial points differences. The semi-final was a nail biting affair for all Irish and the fast growing group of adopted Irish supporters watching. A closely contested match ended 19-15 in the favour of Team Ireland as the Ukranian appeared to run out of steam.
With Woolley now in the final, he was drawn head to head with Russian Kirill Kuchyanov who had clinically made his way through the opposite side of the draw. The match was a complete roller coaster, with Jack falling behind, the re-gaining a 6 point lead, coach Taaffe lost his video replay card to what appeared to be an obvious appeal for a score after ‘kalyeo’ [break]. With the 2 very similar kickers racking up points against each other, Woolley found himself 3 points behind in the last 10 seconds, and pulled it back to an agonising 25-24. The whole room held there breadth at the last second of the match when Woolley landed a strong punch, but it was not to be, the punch did not register before the clock stopped, and it was to be silver.
Both players were given a rapturous applause for what was one of the matches of the tournament and brought the curtain down at the end of the 4 day event. A brief moment of tears soon turned into smiles as Woolley realised what he had achieved. He managed to get to the 2nd step of a European Podium, and was so very close to winning the Gold against a player from the Russian Federation who would be one of thousands of athletes trying to get into the national team. Jack’s performance would not have been possible if he were not joined by his Team Mate & sparring partner Conor Deery from Junsa Taekwondo who also competed in the -45kg division under the watchful eye of Irish Team Coach Stuart Russell.
Conor who fought on the 1st Day of the tournament got off to an excellent start in his first round match, forcing his Ukranian opponent Mark Volyno to withdraw after a heavy contact. Conor proceeded into the quarter finals where he also faced a stern Spanish opposition of Joan Jorquera Cala in another high paced action filled match. Conor went out in his match with major momentum and took a strong lead. As the match progressed to the end of the third 2 minute round, a final kick from the Spaniard regained the lead 10 points to 9 which proved to be the final score. This was Conors first major event as a Junior and he was one point away from the possibility finishing on the podium, which at this level is a fantastic achievement. Also on the agenda in Latvia was the European general Assembly attended by ITU President & European Taekwondo Union Committee Member Martin Fleming. Master Fleming was also a member of the Competition Supervisory board for the Junior European Event.