Some of the world’s finest taekwondo players will look to boost their Rio 2016 hopes when they arrive in the Capital next month for the sixth Commonwealth Championships.
Top athletes – including Welsh sensation and London Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones – will compete in the two-day event at Meadowbank on the weekend of November 15-16.
The competition has received a significant boost after the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) decided to award Olympic ranking points to the top performers.
With the road to Rio for the 2016 Olympics very much on, the event, which will take place in Scotland for the first time, has enticed many of the sport’s top competitors to Edinburgh.
Event director David Bailey, who runs the Central Taekwondo Academy just outside Falkirk, says the calibre of fighters will result in a great show.
“With Jade Jones coming, Lutalo Muhammad, who won bronze in London, and Aaron Cook, who has been ranked world No.1 [80kg] as well, there’s a lot of class,” Bailey, a Seventh Dan, said.
“Scotland has about 30 athletes competing across the two disciplines [sparring and pattern] and 14 of them are from my own club. England are bringing a squad of 250 and Australia 112.
“It’s been a challenge [organising] because it is now recognised as a world-ranking event so there are points available for Olympic selection and that’s made a big difference with the numbers coming and the standard of player. There are proper world-class athletes going to be competing with big names from Australia and Canada. It’s going to be some event.”
Bailey, who has lived in Scotland for more than 20 years after relocating from Liverpool, added: “It is now all beginning to take shape. Trying to get hotels for everyone has proved tricky with Scotland playing the All Blacks at Murrayfield that weekend, but we’ve got a great team and everything is falling into place.
“I’ve just come back from Poland from a referee’s course and I haven’t been out the office to teach or anything as I’ve had so many emails to go through.
“We had tried to get Glasgow where we were in talks about a year ago and thought we were pencilled in at the Emirates but it fell through so the next connection to the Commonwealth was Meadowbank and they have been fantastic with us.”
Taekwondo made its Olympic debut at the Sydney Games in 2000 and the WTF is hopeful of having its inclusion in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
However, Bailey is optimistic the martial art will at last be included in four years’ time when the Commonwealth Games moves to the Gold Coast in Australia.
He said: “The idea is for it to become a full Commonwealth sport and be part of the Games in the future. Great strides have been made on that score and we’re on the list of the optional sports for the Gold Coast in 2018. So by putting on these Commonwealth Championships, we’ll be able to go to the Commonwealth Games Federation and say ‘here’s a championship with over 600 athletes from 24 or so countries’. It will give us that bit more sway.”
• Visit www.taekwondoscotland.org for information on how to purchase tickets for the Championships. Tickets will be available on the door at Meadowbank on November 15-16 subject to availability.