It’s a tough fight for our taekwondo athletes to excel at both the All Africa Games, here in Maputo, Mozambique as well as qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in London, writes Mark Etheridge.
South Africa, with 154 medals going into Saturday’s soccer final between South Africa and Ghana, have 154 medals after seven individual chess medals came the way of the team. Next best, going on sketchy official medal tallies were Nigeria with 80 medals.
Back to taekwondo though and we had four athletes in this code at the Games, best of which was University of Johannesburg’s Yu-Tai Wu, or Terry as he’s more commonly known. He won the only medal by our fighters, bronze in the -58kg class.
But Master Jung Cho, Pretoria based coach of the squad here as well as overseer of our taekwondo Olympian Duncan Mahlangu, says it not easy.
“These Games are an excellent learning curve four our team because they get to competes against international opponents. Even in most other African countries taekwondo is big compared to South Africa.
“Taekwondo took off in South Africa in 2000, compare that to Mali for instance. They won most of the taekwondo medals here and they have been doing taekwondo since 1972.
“Also in terms of numbers. In South Africa we have about 3000 taekwondo competitors. Mali has at least 300,000 and Egypt, where it’s very big has a million or more competitors.”
So Cho reckons it’s all a work in progress. “We’ll need a few years to catch up, you can’t rush this sport. You have to get the experience etc and we have a good few youngsters that will do well in the future.”
Mahlangu was in Maputo as well as he recovers from recent knee surgery. “He came here to check out his future opponents,” said Cho. ” He’s got an important continental Olympic qualifer in Egypt in January, so this was an invaluable opportunity to check out who he will be up against then.”