Foot and fist

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2008, 12:00am

Many sports have been on the Olympic programme since the early days of the modern Games. Who could imagine an Olympiad without gymnastics, swimming or athletics?

These sports command large followings of both competitors and spectators and they are the mainstay of the Olympic Games. But on the sidelines, there are sports that don't appeal to the masses, and which sometimes struggle to get onto the Olympic agenda.

Taekwondo, the ancient Korean martial art in which hands and feet and kick movements are used to overcome an opponent, is a relative newcomer to the Olympics. It first made its appearance in 1988 and 1992. But it was there as a demonstration sport, not in competition.

The International Olympic Committee elevated taekwondo to the rank of official Olympic sports at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and it made a blistering debut. A total of 103 athletes, almost half of them female, from 51 countries took part in the taekwondo events in Sydney.

Sixty-three teams will compete at the Beijing Olympics, an increase on both Sydney and Athens. In August 2008, taekwondo fans will have their eyes on teams from the United States, South Korea, China and France, who are favourites for medals in Beijing.

Question 1

What is a 'mainstay'?

a) the chief support of something

b) the most expensive part of something

Sydney kicks

Taekwondo is of Korean origin and Korean athletes were determined to show just how exciting the sport could be when it was introduced at the Sydney Olympics. To qualify for the national Olympic team, Lee Sun-hee, the 1996 world junior champion, had to defeat top fighters, but nothing could stop this 24-year-old dynamo from proudly representing her country at the 2000 Olympics.

In the under-67 kilogram women's quarter-final, Lee beat an opponent from Finland and she won the semi-final by defeating a Dutch champion. Lee faced a Norwegian in the final, and the first bout had to be stopped when the Korean was accidentally kicked in the throat.

But Lee got over this injury quickly and went on to win the gold medal. In the Sydney men's heavyweight taekwondo final, Kim Kyong-hun faced a strong Australian. Kim took the lead in the first round, eventually winning the gold medal with a 6-2 victory. At the Sydney Olympics, the four Korean taekwondo athletes won three gold medals and one silver. Korea's national sport was now well and truly on the Olympic map.

Question 2

Who is an 'opponent'?

a) a person who you are competing against

b) a person who wins the top prize at a sporting event

Family fortunes

At the Beijing Olympics, US taekwondo champions Mark, Diana and Steven Lopez will be the first American set of three siblings to compete in the same sport in an Olympiad for more than 100 years.

At the moment, the Tritschler brothers hold the record as the only three family members to compete in the same sport at the same Olympics. The Tritschlers competed in gymnastics at the 1904 Games in St Louis. In Beijing, Mark and Diana Lopez will be competing at an Olympiad for the first time, but Steven, their older brother, will be making his third appearance after winning taekwondo gold in 2000 and 2004.

Steven made history in Beijing last year when he snatched his fourth World Championship title from under the noses of stiff Asian opposition. At the same championships, Diana won a gold medal but Mark didn't get past the quarter-finals.

The Lopez siblings will have already equalled one record by just taking part in the Beijing Games and they hope there's more to come in August 2008.

Question 3

What are 'siblings'?

a) brothers, sisters and parents

b) brothers and sisters

Olympic Fact File

Pick a word from the list to complete these statements and then copy them into your Olympic Fact File.

1 Taekwondo was first .................. as an Olympic sport in 2000.

2 The number of taekwondo athletes due to compete in Beijing has gradually .......... since 2000.

3 Lee Sun-hee won ............. for Korea at the Sydney Olympics.

4 Lee's opponent in the women's under-67kg final was from ........................

5 The Lopez siblings are ............................... taekwondo athletes.

6 Steven Lopez is a world ............................ in taekwondo.

a) increased b) American c) Sweden d) presented e) silver

f) gold g) Norway h) champion i) competitor j) decreased k) appearance


1. a, 2. a, 3. b

Olympic Fact File: presented, increased, gold, Norway, American, champion