Tom Degun: After a kicking, I'll leave the sport to the athletes at London 2012
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
It is a sport I have covered a little, particularly during the Aaron Cook saga where the world number one was bizarrely not selected for Team GB for London 2012, but I cannot claim to be a leading taekwondo journalist.
Less still had I participated in the sport which is why I wasn't overly confident when I received orders to head to a "have-a-go" media session on a roof top car park at Westfield Stratford City.
Despite the stunning views the location provided of the Olympic Park in Stratford, I was more worried about the fact that a heat wave has struck London over the last few days which has seen the temperature soar to over 30 degrees.
Fighting in the heat, I thought, would not be my strength.
First came a live demonstration of the new Protector Scoring System (PSS) which debuts at London 2012.
The system was introduced to my colleagues in the media and I by no less than World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Dr Chungwon Choue and it will be used at London 2012 to accurately declare winners.
Demonstrating the various kicks and punches at Westfield were some of Britain's top taekwondo fighters who attacked with blistering speed, aggression and power despite the searing heat.
When it came to the media's turn to get involved, it became clear that I was the only person brave - or foolish - enough to have volunteered to get involved.
I was kitted out with padding, which made it barely possible to move, before I took slowly to the mat to face my infinitely superior opponent.
In my low-level sporting career, I have been in a boxing ring a few times and can probably still throw a half-decent punch should the occasion arise but kicking/being kicked for sport is a completely foreign concept to me.
It took a little time, but after being coached, I started to get the hang of it.
I was taught how to kick to the stomach, after getting told that it required the same technique as volleying a football at waist height, and I even picked up a couple of points on the PSS despite the fact that my opponent wasn't trying.
I unwisely began to get a little more confident as I danced around the mat in my best imitation of Muhammad Ali but suddenly; my opponent unleashed a lightning fast kick that struck me hard in the stomach and left me completely winded despite my padding. It was followed immediately by a second swift blow that left me in an even worse state and the sun was now ganging up on me to leave me feeling completely exhausted and drenched in sweat.
In one last courageous exchange, I managed to land possibly the weakest kick of all time that I can only assume insulted the PSS as it didn't score me a point. Instead, I was met with two more sharp kicks for my efforts and decided to call it a day.
I was left with a new-found appreciation for the sport, and indeed the elite athletes who will be competing in it over the next few weeks at ExCeL during the London 2012 Olympics. It seems strange that after four years of hard training to get to the Games, medals could be decided by one of the blistering kicks like the one that hit me but such is the nature of sport at the highest level.
Despite all the talk of security and transport problems at the Games, it is sometimes forgotten that we are actually here for the sport and the athletes that make it happen.
When the Olympics actually arrive, the sport will finally become the centre of attention and I for one will be full of renewed admiration for the athletic prowess on show.
But more than that, I'll just be glad I'm in the safety of the media stand rather than out there on the field of play, particularly when it comes to the taekwondo competition!
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.