The Irish Taekwondo Union were represented at the World Taekwondo Federation [WTF] World Championships by 5 players who competed from 12-18th May at the Tractor Arena, Chelyabinsk, Russia. Local athlete & April Sportsperson of the Month, Jack Woolley was in action on 22nd May in his -54kg division.
The youngster, still a junior in age at just 16 was selected to attend this senior event due to a promising start to his senior career, where he has picked up major ranking points this year at 3 major events, the US Open, Dutch Open & Spanish Open.
The draw for the event saw Jack seeded in the event giving him a 1st round match against non seeded Bulgarian Kayolan Binev which proved to be a good opening match where Jack remained in control throughout winning the match 12-4.The second round appeared to be a much tougher test where Jack drew Aleksander Kuvarsin from Turkmenistan who had defeated the world no 6 from USA in his preliminary match.
'With no video footage online to study this was a case of going into the match quite blind', noted Coach Taaffe. The closely fought 3 round thriller ended 8-6 in favour of the South Dublin Taekwondo player. After a short break, Jack proceed to compete with the Azerbaijani Mikayil Alyiev in what was to prove to be his most taxing challenge to date.
The match took almost 12 minutes with a long break for a video replay in the final round, Coach Taaffe noted, 'To be honest,. the video replay was not only to seek the possible head points, both players were running on empty due to the physicality of the match, and i felt Jack could use the breathing space to guarantee he could hold onto his lead.'.
The match ended 21-13 in favour of Team Ireland, which put Jack into an unprecedented 1/4 final match with Brazil's Venitilon Teixeira. The player & coach pairing of Woolley & Taaffe were familiar with the Brazilian as Jack had shared the podium with the player earlier in the year in Orlando, where the Brazilian won the US Open.
This match was the end of the road for Jack, who's kicking, match management & style of taekwondo inspired a nation back home who were watching with so much support.
The match finished 21-7 to Brazil who ran away with the lead early in the match and led to Ireland's struggle to claw the points back. There was agony & ecstasy within a few hours in Russia, the emotions in the ring and outside were incredible. This collection of performances led to Jack being placed 5th at the world Championships in a field of 67 players.
After the event Jack noted many thanks to all who assisted him, 'Thanks to the Irish Taekwondo Union and my Club South Dublin Taekwondo for all the support. I am looking forward to getting back to training & assisting others back home in return for all this help.'
Jack had travelled to Russia alongside a large Irish delegation of 5 players & 4 officials. The team selected was Ireland's largest at this level for some time, which speaks volumes on the development of WTF Taekwondo in Ireland currently.
Other players who attended include Conor Grassick [-68kg], Shane Lynch [+87kg], Claire Toland [-57kg] and Chloe Aboud [-67kg], who was formerly of the ITF Style of Taekwondo, and crossed over to seek possible Olympic Championships representation.
Pictured: Chloe Aboud
Each of the 5 team members trained and competed together proudly as integral parts of the overall performance, and whilst the other 4 unfortunately did not win their opening match, all had given very respectable performances against some of the worlds best opposition.
The event was attended by over 1000 athletes from the 205 member nations of the WTF. Current World and Olympic Champions graced the mats which were inspiring to the travelling Irish Team. The team officials included President Martin Fleming, Coaches Robert Taaffe & Brian McKenna & Head of Team Laura McKenna.
The delegation of 9 made some strong in-roads into Ireland's standing at this level and it is hoped many more Irish Taekwondo players can reap the rewards from a grueling trip to Russia.
Pictured: Coach Robert Taaffe, Jack Woolley and ITU President Martin Fleming