At the Summer Olympics Taekwondo made its first appearance as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. The opening ceremony featured a mass demonstration of taekwondo with hundreds of adults and children performing moves in unison. Taekwondo was again a demonstration sport at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but it became a full medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Games and has been consistently in the Olympics since then.
Medals are awarded in four different weight classes for both men and women. Flyweight -58kg Men / -49kg Women, Featherweight -68kg / -57kg, Middleweight -80kg / -67kg and Heavyweight +80kg / +67kg.
For Olympic competition, there is a single elimination tournament for each of the weight categories. The winner of the tournament final receives the gold medal, and the loser receives the silver medal while a Repechage competition is conducted for the bronze medal contest. For this, anyone who loses to a finalist in the single elimination competition enters the repechage.
The aim of taekwondo is for the athlete to kick and punch the opponent, while avoiding being kicked and punched. Points are calibrated: The most challenging techniques, such as spinning kicks to the head, score higher than punches and basic kicks to the trunk. Tactics also come into play, as penalties are awarded against those players who fall, or who exit the matted area.
Matches are fought on a matted octagonal field of play, which encourages lively footwork and evasive movement, while demanding good use of peripheral vision. Matches consist of three rounds of two minutes each, with one-minute breaks between rounds.
The Irish Taekwondo Union (ITU) are the National Governing Body for Olympic Style Taekwondo in Ireland. They are a member of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) and European Taekwondo Union. The ITU aim to provide a fair and transparent pathway to athlete development and participation in World and Olympic and to promote and develop Taekwondo throughout Ireland.
They are the only organisation in Ireland who are mandated to provide the WTF Global Athlete Licence which is required to participate in WTF and Olympic Competition.
Ireland qualified an athlete for the Olympic Games for the first time in 2019 when Jack Woolley gained a named athlete spot for Tokyo 2020.
Today, taekwondo is practised by an estimated 80 million people in more than 200 countries and territories, administered by five Continental Unions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Pan America and Oceania), making it one of the world's most popular sports.