Rule tweaking favors high kicksWith the International Olympic Committee scheduled to review all of the Olympic sports next year, and unpopular sports expected to get the ax, the old adage of “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” may not be the best approach for some sports.
It is no different for Korea’s prime Olympic sport, taekwondo, whose governing body has overhauled the scoring system to make the competitions more interesting to the spectator. The changes the World Taekwondo Federation made in 2002 are in effect at the Athens Games.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, at which taekwondo became an official Olympic medal sport, athletes scored a single point for a successful kick or punch no matter where they landed it.
In taekwondo, kicks are allowed to the face and body, while punches are only allowed on the body, and any contact below the lower abdomen is forbidden.
Although a kick to the face is technically harder to do and riskier (failure exposes the athlete to a counterattack), it was awarded only one point, the same as a simple punch.
As a result, players generally avoided such kicks. The matches were reduced to simple, risk-averse moves, making them less fun to watch.
But not anymore. At Athens, a successful kick to an opponent’s face is awarded two points. A kick that knocks down an opponent nets an additional point. So a kick to the face that knocks down an opponent will result in a maximum three points.
The new scoring system is aimed at bringing out the true essence of taekwondo.
“When teaching taekwondo, 70 percent of the techniques are hand skills. But the real beauty comes with the powerful kicking techniques,” said Lee Kyeong-myeong, a professor at Yong In University. “The new rules will bring out complex skills and make the game really exciting. With an opportunity to score several points with one attack, the tactics employed by the players will change.”
Some taekwondo observers point to another area that could improve the look of the matches. Taekwondo referees are often reluctant to give points for punches, which are easier to execute, fearing the game will start to resemble other combat sports such as boxing. This results in many athletes using simple kicks mostly aimed at the opponents’ chest area, which is the easiest way to score, and gives the game a one-dimensional look that does nothing to attract new fans.
by Brian Lee