Cleaning up taekwondoIn a recent taekwondo competition hosted by the city of Incheon, the coach of a contender who had been beating his opponent 14 to 7 suddenly threw in the towel to declare submission on behalf of his player.
It was later discovered that the rival coaches had colluded to allow the other student to win to give him a chance at a scholarship. The coach resigned from his position at the school. Whatever the reason, he had committed the crime of match-fixing.
Sports are extraordinary because of their unpredictability and surprises. Only the players who do their utmost can determine the result. The passion and effort athletes commit to overcoming their limitations and triumphing never ceases to move those watching.
We see miracles happen every moment on the Olympic stage in Rio de Janeiro. The intentional fixing of matches goes against the principle of sportsmanship.
Match rigging by disadvantaging a certain player with unfair punitive warnings or forced submissions has been frequent. The father of a high school player who dropped out of the selection match for athletes representing Seoul in the National Sports Games in 2013 committed suicide in protest. In April, the head of taekwondo governing body in Seoul and referees were indicted by the prosecution on charges of rigging competition results.
Although Korea is the birthplace to the sport, the Korean taekwondo community has lost face through irregularities resulting from favoritism and connections. Complaints from aspiring players about match fixing and handouts of victory medals are frequent.
Some say the practice is customary to breed athletes. But match fixing is an outright crime and must be severely punished. Prosecutors must thoroughly investigate the cases so that such illegal customs are rooted out.
The tradition of fixing matches is humiliating to Korea, a nation that worked hard to sustain the legacy of the taekwondo and developed it into an official Olympics sport. The players themselves must strive to clean up their community and the playing field.
Adults must strengthen ethics codes and restore sportsmanship as not to disappoint and discourage young players who are sweating at this moment with passion and love for the sport.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 20, Page 26