Irish Taekwondo Athletes started their 2018 international schedule with a double header in Turkey where 2 events were held in the WOW Istanbul Airport Convention Centre.
The World Taekwondo European Club Championships were held from Febuary 6th-9th followed immediately by the Turkish Open from 10th-14th. Both events had massive attendances with many hoping to kick-start their 2018 World Ranking Calendar with a double header in Istanbul.
The Irish Taekwondo Union had 2 national team athletes in participation, Jack Woolley who would fight both events at -58kg senior, and David Phelan who was to fight the Turkish Open in Junior -55kg with assistance from Coach Anas Belmaati.
Jack earned a hard fought 5th place in his -58kg division, with a strong series of matches. In the round of 64 jack had a bye due to his seeding, followed by a 27-2 win v Danila Volkov (RUS) in the round of 32. In the round of 16 he saw off Mattia Crescenzi (ITA) with a 26-21 win. Jacks final match of the day was against Serghei Uscov (MDA) where Jack took a lead, but could not hold off the offence of the Taller fighter who came back to win 13-8 with Jack having to settle for a 5th place finish in his division with 43 entries.
Next up was the Turkish Open Event and the arrival of Irish National Team Athlete David Phelan who joined the team after his junior cert mocks to enter his first event as a Junior. David who had a great year at cadet was hoping to kick off his junior career where he left off last year. Phelan too was in a massive division with 55 entries, and had a close fought debut match in his junior career, winning 21-19 against Dogukan Celic (TUR) in the round of 64, David found his momentum then with a series of conclusive wins including a 22-8 victory against Bathuan Tural (TUR) in the round of 32, and a 13-8 match against Lebanese fighter Andreo Kobersy. Perhaps the highlight of his fighting career to date was his final match of the day against a very experienced fighter who represents the Turkish National Team at both Junior & Senior level Kenal Kulik who has an immensely strong competitive record. David put it to the Turk throughout until he was unfortunately disqualified in the final round for 10 penalty points, with the scoreboard on 24-19 to Turkey, 10 points of which David unfortunately gifted the Turk by penalties whilst trying to overcome the relentless offence of his opponent.
David finishes with a 5th place in his Junior Debut, in arguably one of the toughest tournament on the World circuit. Team mate Woolley noted, 'This was the best I have ever seen him fight'. The final outing for Ireland was Jack to try to improve on his earlier 5th place. With many of the opponents similar to earlier in the week and more from outside Europe, the task may have appeared more difficult, but with determination to improve Jack has his mind set on the Gold medal.
Jack who was seed 5 for the event started off with a bye, followed by a round of 32 outing against 2 time major medal winner Illia Kokshyntsau (BLR) which Woolley won convincingly with a 'point gap' finish of 25-5.
Next up was another major event medalist Niyaz Pulatov (UZB) who Woolley beat 26-14. After a very fast turnaround to the next match Woolley started slow in the quarter final against Emircan Turan (TUR) finding himself 9-1 behind going into the final round, but finding the gears Jack imposed a massive comeback in the final round bringing the score to 20-10 in Ireland's favour.
Now guaranteed a podium finish the next obstacle was Arman Serikuly (KAZ) who was overcome by 18-7 putting Jack in his first final of 2018. Another Moldovan stood in the way of Woolley's goal, this time Stepan Dimitrov, former European Champion.
The match which was aired on live Turkish TV was viewed around the word by taekwondo enthusiasts and saw Jack take a good lead in the early rounds. The Moldovan clawed back some ground in the final round and with a dramatic ending to the match, with one second on the board it appeared Jack was to win 10-9, until the Moldovan coach used his video replay card to try to get an additional point for his athlete for a spinning kick which had occurred shortly earlier. The video replay call was approved, ending the match 10-10 in regulation time. A 4th and final round was played where an early exchange occurred, Jack firing for the head, and Stepan for Jacks body. It was the Moldovan's point who scored first, giving him the victory by Golden point.
Jack secured his first podium of 2018 finishing 2nd in a field of 58, the gold slipped through his fingers, but it will be a valuable lesson to be applied to matches later on the road to Tokyo 2020. Irish taekwondo has a very busy 2018 ahead with a full calendar of World Ranking Events throughout the year, including the Junior World Championships & Youth Olympic Qualification tournament in Tunisia in April, the Senior Europeans in Russia in May and major events for Cadets later in the year.
Video Link to Final: https://www.facebook.com/SouthDublinTaekwondo/videos/10156143272080979/
Jack Woolley with Silver Medal at podium
David Phelan & Anas Belmaati