Friday, August 22, 2008

SPORTS: I Need to Say Good-bye Old Friend

It's probably been a quarter-century since I last watched more than a minute or two of Taekwondo. Having seen three Canadian matches over the last two days, I'm guessing it'll be another fifty or so years before I see any more ... well, after these Olympics are finished.

I got my first exposure to Taekwondo at the urging of Ken Wai-Kin Cheung, an energetic young man (at the time), promoting the opening in Brampton of his first Taekwondo Studio. This was back in the late 70's. Ken Wai-Kin was already a high mucky-muck within world Taekwondo circles. He was on his way to becoming a world-certified referee, spending a fair time back in South Korea. He was also involved in both the Ontario Taekwondo Association and Taekwondo Canada. He certainly was enthusiastic.

If memory serves me correct, he TWICE took Ken Giles and myself out the dinner to ply us for information on how best to promote his sport. He was actually DOING what was best, but he wanted to know how to push buttons further. He was earnest, willing to take advice from the two of us to put his new club in the best light. But he also wanted to push the Taekwondo agenda too. Brampton, at the time, was a hotbed for judo and there were more than a few karate black belts in town too. Ken Wai-Kin wanted a piece of the publicity pie.

Which he got.

I ended up being the writer assigned the opening of the club. And I also tended to follow the kids at the studio a little more energetically than I might have otherwise. Couldn't turn down free food, afterall. It might very well have been a little bit of a conflict. But I'll tell you, Ken Wai-Kin earned that extra attention with his own efforts.

He kept pushing and eventually became a top-ranked Canadian official at multiple Olympics. He was the team leader for Canada as recently as the 2003 Pan American Games. But his name is nowhere to be seen in the info for Taekwondo Canada for this year's Olympic team. Nonetheless, with Canada's medal hopes pretty high for at least three of the competitors in Beijing, I didn't switch over to another channel when the heavily-armoured contestants popped up on the screen.

Now, some 25 years later, having been re-introduced to Taekwondo thanks to the efforts of the CBC, I'm all for throwing the sport OUT of the Olympics. The jobbing Ivett Gonda got at the hands of the judges in her opening round match was obvious to my eyes. And if my eyes deceived me, then the scoring in the sport is too arcane for my poor mind to follow. That the decision survived official protest means rot has set into the sport at a level impossible to root out. The same thing has occurred in both boxing and judo.

I'm glad Ken Wai-Kin isn't around in an official capacity in Beijing. He's probably there anyway, but not having to blast his passion with him officially in the target site, makes it easier for me to take the position I have. When the fix is in, out has to go the sport.

Good-bye Taekwondo.

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