Slovakia's Michaela Kovacova and Eleftheria Panagopoulou of Greece have been nominated as chairs of WAKO Europe's Referees Committees for Ring Sports and Tatami Sports respectively ©WAKO

World Association of Kickboxing Organisations (WAKO) Europe President Istvan Kiraly has claimed that gender equality forms "part of the backbone of our sport" after two female officials were nominated as chairs of Referee Committees.

Slovakia's Michaela Kovacova is a Board member of WAKO and its European Federation, and was nominated by Hungarian President Kiraly to chair the WAKO Europe Referees Committee for Ring Sports, of which she was already serving as a member.

Kovacova said she was grateful to have been given the opportunity to head up the Committee.

"For years I have been a member of both WAKO IF [International Federation] and WAKO Europe Committee," she commented.

"Kickboxing and being a referee [have] become a lifestyle for me.

"This nomination was unexpected, I am thankful and honoured [at] being granted such a position.

"For years I have absorbed learning from my colleagues.

"I will do my outmost to build a strong new team of dedicated referees with their heart in the sport working with high integrity.

"The referees are one of the most important mechanisms in our sport to ensure fair play for our great athletes."

Greek national referee Eleftheria Panagopoulou was nominated by Kiraly to chair the WAKO Europe Referees Committee for Tatami Sports, and believes she has the skills and the experience to excel in the position.

"Being nominated as a chairwoman is a big honour for me," Panagopoulou said.

WAKO Europe President Istvan Kiraly argued that the nominations showed that
WAKO Europe President Istvan Kiraly argued that the nominations showed that "in WAKO gender development works" ©Getty Images

"I feel strongly engaged and committed enough to dedicate part of my life to this role.

"I consider myself to be a fair, independent, calm, showing dignity in exercising my duties which leads to me being acceptable by WAKO Europe.

"I have experience and I’m learning from my mistakes to get a better outcome next time.

"I believe a good result is a confident teamwork.

"It is not only being a leader."

Kiraly said both officials had proved themselves well-suited to their new positions, and argued that the nominations demonstrated WAKO's commitment to gender equality.

"From being one of the most experienced referees with high quality and integrity in their work, they have also become strong characters capable to take the responsibility," the WAKO Europe President commented.

"This has now accumulated in their chairwomen positions.

"In kickboxing, which is [a] unique phenomenon in a martial art or combat sport world, gender equality has become so integrated part of the backbone of our sport, which results in female chairs in such important Committees.

"This is a testament that in WAKO gender development works."

WAKO was granted full recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its Session in Tokyo in July last year.