(article taken from UK ITF Facebook page)
ITF World Games 2023
An early morning start on Tuesday 7th September saw the UK ITF Team of competitors Ellis, Leighton, Noah, Elliott and Madison along with coach Master Owen and umpire Master Cornwell meet at Heathrow Airport for their long journey to Korea. The first flight took them to Abu Dhabi, before boarding the second flight to Korea after a short stop over. In total the journey took about 17 hours. Thankfully everyone was well supplied with food on each plane journey!
Upon landing in Korea, it was clear that it was going to be a hot week, with temperatures above 30 degrees with high humidity. After a short coach journey to the hotel in the Dongdaemun District of Seoul, everyone was able to check in to their rooms and relax for a short while. Once all were settled, it was time to explore the surroundings a little and most importantly find somewhere to buy water! Settling down for the evening at a local restaurant an early night beckoned for some well needed sleep.
First up on the schedule for day 2 was the weigh in. Team UK joined the long queue of teams from around the world to get their competitor passes signed off. You could sense the anticipation and eagerness to step onto the scales. Whilst weigh ins can sometimes be a stressful event, everyone from Team UK thankfully passed their checks first time. It was now time to refuel before the team took a short walk to a nearby park for a light training session led by Master Owen to keep bodies moving and minds focused on the task at hand.
Later on, the team attempted to use the metro for the first time to travel more into the city centre. Once the route had been established and with new knowledge that you can only use cash in Korean metro stations, it was time to travel deeper into Seoul. One of the things on the to do list was visiting the Kukkiwon, Korea’s National centre for WT Olympic style Taekwondo. The building itself was very impressive, with the inside like a mini stadium. The team were very fortunate to witness the WT demonstration team, who were practicing their routine for the ITF World Games opening ceremony in a few days time. Plenty of flips, spins and flying kicks later, everyone moved on to find food for the evening.
The first official day of competition was for coloured belts. Team UK got to check out the venue, which was the very impressive Olympic Handball Stadium which was used during the 1988 Olympics. As there was no coloured belts from the UK entering, it was great to support Master Cornwell, who was a senior umpire in all three competition days. The team were also able to get familiar with the surroundings, competition lay out and of course secure some good seats to watch from.
Day 2 signalled the start of the black belt competition. The opening ceremony for the championships included a K Pop performance, traditional Korean drumming, break dancing and of course plenty of Taekwon-Do. The WT demonstration team performed their acrobatic routine with excellent poise, skill and precision. Afterwards, it was the turn of the Argentinian Women’s team to perform Team Patterns with their usual synchronisation, power and blue sparkled hair. UTA competitor Elliott Callahan was also invited to take part in the opening ceremony in an exhibition spar, which was a great privilege. Further power breaking demonstrations followed before the competition continued.
Starting with Adult Patterns, Ellis Lacey, Leighton Callahan and Elliott Callahan were the first competitors up for Team UK. Despite performing with excellent power, technical ability and consistent rhythm, Ellis and Leighton finished just outside the medal positions. On another day it could have been a completely different result, but there was no lack of preparation and effort from both. Elliott managed to secure a bronze medal in the 4th degree category, losing narrowly in a split decision to the eventual winner of the category. This was a learning experience for everyone, as there was only a designated pattern to perform, instead of the usual optional and designated.
Despite the disappointment of patterns, the adults were fired up for sparring. Once again, this was going to be a different test, as there was only one round for each spar as opposed to two. Elliott was up first and although looking strong and finding his range against a much taller opponent from DR Congo, it wasn’t to be in the eyes of the judges. Noah Careford was making his debut in the Adult Heavyweight Category, using his excellent distance management and precise kicks and punches, he moved through his first 3 rounds against Poland, New Zealand and Argentina to set up his final later on in the day against another Argentinian live on ITF Sports TV.
Leighton followed up against an experienced opponent from South Korea. He fought with confidence, stepping in with some great punches and following up with kicks. Some unfortunate warnings however tipped the score in the Korean’s favour in an exciting match which could have gone either way. Ellis would also fight an extremely experienced competitor from Argentina. Ellis was able to score some fantastic kicks early on in the round forcing the Argentinian to use all of his experience to change the outcome. In a fantastic tactical match, it was the competitor from Argentina who came out on top. This was both Leighton and Ellis’ first international competition sparring in the adult categories, so they will have gained lots of experience to draw from in the future. On another day and potentially in a two round match, there could have been some different results.
Although the results weren’t the Golds that everyone was aiming for, it was time to get behind Noah for his final later that evening. Back to the traditional two round contest, Noah made a brilliant start with some headshots and accurate counter punches. Some good movement allowed him to sustain his advantage at the half time break. The Argentinian was fired up for the second round and changed his game plan, clawing back some points and taking it right to the end in a thrilling encounter. Both fighters gave it their all, leaving Noah with a well deserved silver medal in his first Adult International Competition.
Speaking after the competition Noah said: “It was a spectacle to both watch and be a part of, competing for the first time as an adult. You can really feel the weight of the moment when under the lights or on the centre stage.”
The final day was the turn of Madison to compete in Patterns, Sparring and Special Technique. She performed her pattern with strength and fantastic technique, however the judges went the way of her opposition. Onto sparring where she fought against a strong girl from Kyrgyzstan. Using her flexibility and kicking ability, she tried to keep her opponent away. Another student making her International sparring debut, she did not back down and took home a bronze medal, with her opponent going on to win the division. This was a great stepping stone in her Taekwon-Do journey and sets her up well for the future.
Finally it was time for her to compete in special technique Madison progressed through the qualifier after hitting the board with the flying high kick. She narrowly missed the flying turning kick which left the flying side kick to go. Madison was the only one in the category to clear the hurdles with her jump, but just couldn’t get the side kick in before landing, leaving her just outside the medal positions.
Madison enjoyed the trip, saying:
“Going to the World Games was an incredible experience and to compete on the main stage was both exciting and terrifying all at once!
It was really cool to explore Korea with our group from the UK and to see the birthplace of Taekwon-Do. It was an amazing trip I will never forget and we made some really fun memories. I am so very proud and honoured to have been offered the opportunity to go.”
With the competition finished, everyone settled in for a last night of celebration and reflection before the long journey back home.
It was a great experience and privilege to visit the birthplace of Taekwon-Do. Everyone will have learnt valuable lessons which will serve them well for future competitions.
“It was a fantastic experience, and especially humbling to be able to compete in the birth country of Taekwon-Do. It was a great opportunity to learn new things and reflect on how I can better myself as a Taekwon-Do practitioner.” said Leighton on reflection of the event.
A huge thank you goes to UK ITF and GM Nicholls for their support in the lead up to the event and coordination of the teams travel and accommodation and to Master Owen for his coaching and guidance in training and at the event. Congratulations and thank you to Master Cornwell for representing UK ITF as an umpire at this tournament.
Finally, congratulations to our Team UK competitors who performed with skill, determination and pride in representing their Nation.