Taekwondo Competition – Talent Transfer A New Era For Taekwondo? Pt1

Talent Transfer in sport is a programme which has been utilized by many sporting organizations and bodies for a number of years, especially Taekwondo. Put simply talent transfer is where an athlete in one sport changes their focus to another sport. This can be due to a number of variables including higher probability of sporting success or even sporting inclusion in certain events i.e. Olympic Games.

Most of the success stories of talent transfer come from power based sports e.g. rowing to cycling or sports with similarities e.g. racquet sports where there is a minimal need to focus on ‘teaching’ the specific conditioning needs of the sport rather focusing on the skill set required to compete successfully. Many countries have talent identification/transfer programmes in place including Australia, Canada and Great Britain.

For some time there has been a large held debate over talent transfer within competitive Taekwondo whether this is by athletes from other martial arts or even other sports. Many argue that due to the complex nature of Taekwondo from both a physical and mental standpoint successful Taekwondo athletes would need to be trained from scratch learning the fundamentals of the sport from an early age.

However in recent times there have been a number of success stories within Taekwondo that involved athletes who talent transferred from other disciplines.

In 1995 one of the most successful female Taekwondo athletes of all time, Chen Zhong of China, transferred from playing basketball to Taekwondo. Within 5 years she was selected for the national team and had won a bronze medal at both the 1998 Asian Games and 1999 World Championships and then the gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games when Taekwondo made its debut in the Olympic programme.

Chen Zhong

From this point she went on to defend her Olympic title at the 2004 Games as well as winning gold at the World Cup twice in 2001 and 2002, the Asian Games in 2006 and the World Championships in 2007. Zhong’s success was attributed to her immense physical strength and strong mentality as well as a grueling talent transfer training programme which involved performing over 1000 kicks a day.

After Taekwondo’s inclusion into the Olympic programme in 2000 there have been many cases of athletes from other martial arts disciplines trying to compete to make Olympic teams across the globe. One of the biggest success stories of this sort of transfer is a young Taekwondo athlete from Great Britain named Jade Jones. At the age of 8 Jade started Taekwondo but in the discipline of ITF and made the transfer in to WTF at the age of 15.

Jade Jones

Since then Jade has had a whirlwind of success including winning gold at the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games, a pair of silvers at both the Junior World Championships in 2010 and the World Championships in 2011 and a bronze at the European Championships in 2010. In 2012 she will be competing for Great Britain at the European Championships and will be hoping to make the team to chase gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games on home soil.

After achieving her so much in the short period of 4 years Jade’s success inspired the UK’s ‘Fighting Chance’ initiative a part of Export’s Talent 2012 identification programme. Another success story of this talent transfer programme is an athlete who previously competed in Kickboxing named Damon Samsun.

Recently Damon has had a number of successes including reaching the quarter finals of his first World Championships in 2011 and a gold medal at the 2012 German Open where he beat Pan American Games gold medalist Sebastian Crismanich in the quarter finals. Again Damon has achieved this success in the very short space of only 2 years.

So based on the above case studies talent transfer within Taekwondo can be shown to work (even in a limited amount of time!) but what are the variables that allow this to occur? Is it physical attributes? Have the rule changes made Taekwondo more accessible to other disciplines? The electronic hogus? Skill transfer from other disciplines i.e. checking – kickboxing, ITF Taekwondo?

In the next article we will examine these variables in more depth. In the meantime please send us any details of other talent transfer success (or even failure!) stories and give us your opinions on what you think makes this possible. As always feel free to comment below and ask any questions! 🙂